Striking carers end Renfrewshire Council pay dispute

GMB members protesting outside Renfrewshire House
GMB members protesting outside Renfrewshire House -Credit:GMB Renfrewshire

Striking care workers in Renfrewshire have won a big rise and thousands of pounds in back pay after arguing their work had been undervalued for years.

The home care staff – who went on strike for five days as part of the GMB throughout April – have voted to accept an offer to increase their grade by two, with the rise backdated to 2020. It means they will be moved from grade two to four, representing an hourly rise of £1.77.

Under the agreement full-time care workers with four years’ service could also receive more than £14,000 in back pay and an annual rise of £2,900.

Fellow trade union Unison has put the offer to its legal department.

Carers with the GMB union voted overwhelmingly for strike action earlier this year, claiming a review of their role failed to properly recognise their increased responsibilities.

Kirsten Muat, GMB Scotland organiser in Renfrewshire Council, welcomed the local authority’s decision and hailed the workers’ determination to win fair pay in a protracted dispute.

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 review of home carers’ roles and wages was the first evaluation to take place in Renfrewshire in 16 years.

In the intervening years care workers have moved on to support people with complex needs and are now responsible for administering medication, completing additional paper work and are often responsible for liaising with social work, NHS teams and other healthcare professionals.

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.”

Unison had suspended planned strike action in April in order to consider the offer made by the council.

Mark Ferguson, the Renfrewshire branch secretary of Unison, said the dispute has not yet been resolved. He said: “The offer is currently with our legal department.

“The issue is very complex and we want to ensure that it is equal pay compliant and the correct processes are in place. When we receive the legal advice we will communicate that to our members and decide on the way forward.”

A spokesperson from Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership, which operates the care at home service in partnership with the council, said: “We are pleased that GMB members have accepted our offer and we continue to work with all other relevant trade unions to resolve this dispute.”

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