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Striking care workers in Renfrewshire celebrate 'momentous' fair pay award

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Striking care workers in Renfrewshire have won a big rise and thousands of pounds in back pay after accusing council managers of undervaluing their work for years.

The council home care staff, who have been taking industrial action in support of fair pay, have hailed a “momentous” victory after voting to accept an offer to increase their grade by two with the rise backdated to 2020

It means an hourly rise of £1.77 and full-time care workers with four years’ service could receive more than £14,000 in back pay and an annual rise of £2900.

GMB Scotland fought for the deal and said other councils across Scotland being challenged on job reviews must now follow Renfrewshire in fairly recognising the changing role and responsibilities of care workers, mostly women, who have been undervalued and underpaid.

Kirsten Muat, GMB Scotland organiser in Renfrewshire Council, welcomed the council’s decision and hailed the workers’ determination to win fair pay.

She said: “Only our members’ action brought the council to the table and only their unity secured this offer.

“They know their job better than anyone, know what their work is worth and refused to accept anything less.

“Our members work in care providing crucial frontline support to some of the most vulnerable people in communities across Renfrewshire.

“That role has changed dramatically in recent years and that has been now recognised with fair pay.”

The carers voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action after warning a long-awaited council review of their pay grade failed to properly recognise how their job has changed and now involves many more duties and responsibilities.

It was the first review of carers for 16 years but the frontline staff are providing far more personal care and supporting more people with complex needs than ever before.

Gwenda Helie, who has been a carer in Renfrewshire for seven years, said the striking staff had been overwhelmed by support.

She said: “Taking strike action didn’t come easy for a lot of us but so many of our clients were fully behind us and thought we deserved to be paid fairly.

“We had been undervalued and underpaid for far too long.

“GMB Scotland has listened to us from the very start and believed we deserved a better grade.

“We were all brought together into a fantastic team.”

Another Renfrewshire care worker, Fiona O’Brien, said: “The industrial action wasn’t taken lightly. It has been challenging for many of us but we have been astounded by the support.

“By taking a stand, we have won a major change for workers and established a new positive attitude towards making change happen.

“The outcome for us and the care sector generally feels momentous.”

GMB Scotland has warned looming equal pay claims threaten to bankrupt local authorities across Scotland without urgent government intervention.

Louise Gilmour, GMB Scotland secretary, has written to the Scottish Government warning many councils’ refusal to engage on claims risks financial catastrophe.

She is urging Humza Yousaf to support the creation of a new specialist body to decide on equal pay claims across the country and enforce awards because local authorities are refusing to face reality.

She said: “Councils are approaching equal pay claims like the Titanic approaching the iceberg.

“Councillors have their heads in the sand and executives have their fingers in their ears but these equal pay claims will come, will be won and will need to be settled.”