PROTESTERS in Chester braved the drizzle to urge a care company to increase staff pay to the national living wage.
About 120 employees of Care UK in Doncaster are taking part in a 14-day strike over pay and it is understood that managers from the company’s Chester office have been drafted in to cover the shortfall.
Members of trade union Unison’'s west Cheshire branch brandished placards outside the office on Sealand Road on Friday morning, and received toots of support from passing motorists.
They say the care workers, who look after elderly people and adults with learning disabilities, should be paid the living wage of £7.65 an hour rather than the current £7.
Protesters are calling on all councils that outsource services to Care UK, including Cheshire West and Chester Council, to rethink their policy.
CWaC has confirmed it does employ the services of Care UK but added the company was not its main provider.
Protester Ray McHale, 56, told the Leader: “The least we can do is put pressure on Care UK to resolve this dispute, and to make them aware that what’s happening in Doncaster is being followed across the country.
“We are trying to put pressure on other organisations and councils that use Care UK as a care company.
“If they can afford to pay managers to go up to Doncaster and stay overnight in accommodation then they can afford to pay their staff a better wage.
“A lot of these people are long-standing care workers who are very experienced and know their clients and work very well but are now being forced down to the lowest pay rates in the sector.”
Kenny Cunnigham, Hoole, added: “It’s about solidarity. We are aware of this group of workers who are struggling in Doncaster and we want to show our support and expose the company for low wages and exploiting their staff. We also want to make it harder and harder for people to get away with that in Chester.”
And Trish Richards said: “We are fighting for a living wage. People should have this so they don’t have to claim benefits, which taxpayers fund. At the moment they don’t earn enough to live. For a fair day’s work you should get a fair day’s pay.
“When you think of the work these people do, helping our most vulnerable people, then surely they deserve better treatment than this.”
Care UK’s director of learning disability services, Chris Hindle, said the company was “deeply disappointed” by the strike action and said the vast majority of staff had accepted the revised terms and conditions of employment opposed by Unison.
“The union has indicated verbally that it is demanding a pay rise of up to 10 per cent,” he said. “This is simply unrealistic in light of the reduced funding available from the council and seems totally at odds with what is happening in comparable jobs in the NHS and other public sector roles where settlements, if any, are a fraction of this.
“The changes we have proposed and which have been largely accepted have protected jobs, protected generous final salary pension rights, protected basic pay and protected future pay increment increases.”