‘Hostile’ care provider urged to pay workers real living wage

Campaigners stage protest against low pay at Southgate care home, reports Fran Di Fazio

Protestors from Citizens UK staged a demonstration outside Southgate Beaumont Care Home in support of staff demands for higher wages
Campaigners from Citizens UK staged a demonstration outside Southgate Beaumont Care Home in support of staff demands for higher wages (credit Fran Di Fazio)

A care home provider has refused to meet local campaigners demanding a ‘real living wage’ for its workers in Southgate.

Local members of campaign network Citizens UK gathered outside Barchester Healthcare’s Southgate Beaumont Care Home in Cannon Hill yesterday (Wednesday) to demand its care workers are paid a real living wage, a rate currently calculated as being £11.95 per hour in London.

A delegation of community leaders and local school pupils attempted to meet Barchester’s management team and deliver a letter. But they were refused access and resorted to delivering their demands through the care home’s front door instead.

Community organiser Paul Amuzie, who led the demonstration, said he wasn’t surprised. “Barchester have been quite hostile, they have refused all our approaches,” he told the Dispatch.

In July, Barchester Healthcare declined to meet Citizens UK campaigners during a demonstration held outside their London headquarters, even as other care providers agreed to discuss the group’s living wage demands.

“They’re getting us even more fired up,” Paul added. “We want a meeting, and if they don’t agree to meet us, we are going to take more action.”

Reverend Stephen Poxon, from St Mark’s Methodist Church in Tottenham, was part of the delegation submitting the letter. He said: “I rang the bell four times, and they were not willing to open. One member of staff walked past and told us they weren’t letting us in.”

The letter asks Barchester to become an accredited with the Living Wage Foundation and support its care workers through the ongoing cost-of-living crisis. The company would become the first large care provider to do so if it agreed. Some 229 smaller companies have accredited in the past two years.

Children from Willow Primary School in Tottenham prepared their own letters to show appreciation and support for the care workers. The school has supported the living wage campaign for ten years. “I think the children were really committed to this action, and they were so disappointed that nobody came to the door,” Rev Poxon said.

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Dominique Edwards, from Haringey Education Partnership, was attending the demonstration with her teenage students. She commented: “This is a great experience for our young people, to be able to come out and see what’s going on in the community, but also to have a platform and a voice, so that they can say how things like this affect them at home and in school.”

Approached for comment by the Dispatch, Barchester Healthcare replied with a statement concerning employees’ wages which said: “We already pay above the UK Living Wage (UKLW) to all staff at Southgate Beaumont home. All staff at the home are paid at least £9.90 per hour, which is above the UKLW.”

The real living wage, however, is calculated annually by the Living Wage Foundation according to the actual cost of living. Current hourly rates are £11.95 for London and £10.90 nationally.

Wide remuneration gaps between directors and employees exist across the social care industry. With a salary of £2.27million in 2020, Barchester’s chief executive has reportedly earned around 130 times more than some of the company’s frontline workers during the pandemic. In addition, 91% of a sample of 64 Barchester Healthcare workers reported being given no access to sick pay, while half of a sample of 72 reported getting no paid breaks.

With regard to allegations of staff exploitation, Barchester says: “It is wholly incorrect to state that staff employed by the home do not receive paid sick leave or breaks.”

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