After months of campaigning, support workers in Wales have secured a 15% pay increase and the Foundation Living Wage.
In April 2022, the Welsh Government made £48m available to social care providers to fund an uplift to the Foundation Living Wage for registered care workers in Wales, which is now £10.90.
However, months went by and carers working for Integra Community Living Options did not see any extra money in their pay packets. Union members approached the Cardiff County UNISON Branch about the issue, who enlisted the support of the region and the union’s strategic organising unit (SOU), and set about campaigning.
After four months of collective action, support workers received a significant victory on 21st April 2023, with £780 back pay going to every support worker to cover the wage increase.
UNISON kept the pressure up and on the 21st May 2023, support workers were paid the 2023/24 uplift. These two payments have resulted in a 15% increase overall.
UNISON member Hannah*, who is a support worker, describes the impact of the wage increase and back pay: “I’ve managed to get back on top of my bills. Working for such low pay is difficult and having to put more hours in and then feeling burnt out afterwards is not nice. I’m grateful for the help UNISON has given”.
According to UNISON organiser Kalvinder Tiwana, “This victory has been achieved by taking an organising approach and building power in the workplace. Four months of escalating actions by these members has resulted in their voices being heard and in this win.”
Workers formed an organising committee and created a petition and a collective grievance. On 1 April 2023, UNISON sent an ‘April Fools’ card to commissioning health boards and politicians. Online, they posted photographs of themselves wearing campaign stickers and were buoyed by numerous messages of solidarity from other care workers.
Ms Tiwana continued: “The campaign has exposed the delays and pressured the company to pay up. These low-paid workers have shown that when you organise and harness your collective power, you can win. It also shows how a collaborative and targeted approach by the SOU, Cymru/Wales region and branches has been effective in achieving this.”
Chair of UNISON Cardiff County Branch, Peter Davies, said: “It has been really inspiring to see how this group of workers stuck together as a collective and ensured that they got the money that their employer was trying to deny them. It is also a great example of what can be achieved when union resources are put into organising.”
Another support worker said: “The pay rise has meant a great deal to me as I can stop worrying about bills and other important payments. I am also finally able to go abroad which I haven’t been able to do for years. It wouldn’t have been achieved without the employees standing strong with one another, and working in partnership with UNISON.”
*Name has been changed to protect anonymity.
The article Care workers in Wales win 15% increase and Foundation Living Wage first appeared on the UNISON National site.