Workplace Report April 2020

Bargaining news

Scottish government recognises care workers’ role

The Scottish government has recognised the vital contribution of care workers with a u-turn on PPE and an instant pay rise to the real living wage.

Following a meeting with health workers’ union UNISON, general unions GMB and Unite, and local government (COSLA), it has issued fresh advice saying that care workers should be given face masks to protect themselves from coronavirus.

The move comes amid a general shortage of PPE and after UNISON claimed that initial guidelines sent to care homes had left many workers confused. The guidance had stated that care workers only needed gloves and an apron if the person under their care was not suspected of having Covid-19.

Unison described the guidelines as “dangerous”, especially as more than a third of Scottish care homes are now dealing with confirmed cases. The new agreed position will be that social care staff should wear protective masks where they feel appropriate, in line with their professional judgement. The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) said the change had resulted from an “incredibly effective union intervention”.

Shortly afterwards, the government announced it is giving all frontline staff an immediate pay increase and enhanced sick pay provision. The pay rise to the real living wage rate of £9.30 an hour for all hours worked, including sleep-overs and hours worked by personal assistants, amounts to a 3.3% pay increase for care workers and will be backdated to 1 April.

The move, agreed between the Scottish government and Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), means staff will not need to wait for the pay to be backdated at a point later in the year following negotiations, as is usually the case.

The Scottish government will also provide funding to third sector and independent providers specifically to ensure that staff receive sick pay if they are off work ill or because they are self-isolating. Providers will be free to distribute the extra funding as they wish, giving them the option to increase wages across their organisations, and not just to frontline staff.

Commenting on the announcement, Mike Kirby, UNISON Scotland secretary, said: “We welcome today’s announcement of the updating pay rise for social care workers and the additional assurances on sick pay.

“While the Scottish living wage has been policy over recent years, there has been a protracted contracting process and delays in money reaching care workers. This deal should remove these obstacles. This deal begins to recognise the real value in society of this workforce.”