Tory care home vaccination U-turn

Fight for £15 an hour to address worker shortages

Glynn Doherty, social care trade union organiser

The government’s U-turn on compulsory vaccinations for care home staff confirms what many socialists, trade unions and even social care sector employers said: it was an ill-thought out populist policy, playing on the fears of ordinary working people about safety for the elderly. It also demonstrates this is a weak Tory government bumbling around from one scandal or shambles to another.

The Socialist said at the time “Adding to this [social care staffing] crisis by sacking workers is the height of irresponsibility and stupidity” (see ‘Sacking non-vaccinated care workers will not save lives‘). Tens of thousands left social care in 2021 either through burnout, low pay or the ‘no jab, no job’ policy. Care home residents have suffered reduced services because of staffing shortages and too many have died. The government has blood on its hands.

For the government to glibly say workers who were sacked can now apply for their old jobs back is totally inadequate. Anyone who was dismissed under this policy and wants to return to social care should be reinstated with no loss of continuous service benefits. Many, unfortunately, will not wish to go back.

The trade unions must use the U-turn to launch a major campaign to increase pay in the sector. Over 60% of social care workers automatically receive an annual pay rise – because if they didn’t their pay would fall below the legal minimum wage! But the April 2022 rise in the minimum wage to £9.50 an hour is not enough. It has already been swallowed up by energy price rises and other increasing costs.

The unions must submit claims to all separate employers across the sector for a £15-an-hour minimum wage and launch a membership organisation and recruitment drive to fight for this. This should be linked to a campaign to bring the whole sector into public ownership.