The trade union Unison has written to councils asking them to boost funding to the Alternative Futures Group care charity in order to protect overnight staff’s pay amid continuing strike action.
Unison has led a series of strikes in response to plans to cut the pay of staff working sleep-in shifts to below minimum wage.
Previously, Unison has said that the councils pay AFG enough for it to pay its workers above minimum wage. But the union has now said that two of the 15 councils, Rochdale and Warrington, do not pay the £73.89 they have said is needed per nine hour sleep-in shift to pay each worker the government's National Living Wage (£8.21).
Paula Barker, Unison North West regional convenor, said: “There are councils in the North West who should be paying more to ensure that staff receive at least the minimum wage for working sleep-ins.
"Unison has written to Rochdale and Warrington councils to express our concern that they are paying too little.”
Responding to the letter, Andrea Fallon, interim director of adult services at Rochdale Borough Council, said: “There has been no reduction in the sleep-in rates we give to providers and any decisions about the pay levels for carers are a matter for individual care providers, not the council.
“We can assure service users and their families that we have a robust plan in place to ensure their care services will be delivered as normal. The individual care needs of our residents will always be our number one priority.”
Warrington Borough Council did not respond to Civil Society Media's request for comment.
Charity 'taking too much for central costs'
Unison also claimed that AFG spent too much on central overheads instead of its overnight staff. Barker said: “AFG are taking an enormous cut out of the public money that is intended for the pay packets of low-wage care staff.
She added: “Overall we reject AFG’s assertion that they cannot afford fair pay in the North West.”
However, AFG has maintained that the pay cut is necessary due to insufficient funding from the 15 councils that commission their services.
Disputing the claim that the charity spends too much on central staff, a spokesperson said: “This Unison claim is a red herring.
"The real issue for a not-for-profit charity like Alternative Futures Group is the systematic under-funding by central and local government of sleep-ins causing a deficit of £8.1m for AFG since 2015.”
They added: “We are pleased to see that Unison is finally publicly acknowledging that councils need to pay more for sleep-ins so that dedicated support workers can receive at least the National Minimum Wage (NMW).
"AFG has been and will continue to vigorously campaign to put adequate funding of healthcare on the radar of commissioners, MPs, ministers, the APPG on Social Care and the Health and Social Care Select Committee."
This week, there were three days of strike action. Last month there was a 48-hour strike and a seven-day ban on sleep-in shifts. There have also been rallies held in Liverpool, Burnley, Rochdale and Ashton and staff took part in a Parliamentary lobby on 20 March.