Care firm blames Camden Council for ‘demoralising’ staff with demands to end ‘poverty wages’

Cllr Sally Gimson.

Cllr Sally Gimson. - Credit: Archant

A private firm contracted to run care homes in Camden has criticised the council for “demoralising” their staff by demanding the company pays the London Living Wage (LLW) instead of “poverty wages”.

Councillors at Monday’s full council meeting heard a deputation from George Binette, branch secretary of Camden Unison, calling on the authority to renegotiate its contract with Shaw Healthcare to ensure the company pays staff the LLW.

Care chief Cllr Sally Gimson responded by slamming Shaw for paying “14,000 poverty wages” and refusing to meet the LLW threshold. But now the company has hit back in a statement.

A spokesman for Shaw said the firm was “disappointed” with Cllr Gimson’s comments, adding: “Cllr Gimson would have been fully aware of the proposed pay structures when the contract was awarded and therefore to suggest that the service is not sustainable just a few months later is not only unhelpful but demoralising to both staff and residents.

“We are an employee-owned company and regularly benchmark our employment contracts against other organisations in the field, including the hourly rates and benefits offered to staff, to ensure that we remain competitive in the market place.”

Shaw, which runs Maitland Park Care Home and the new Wellesley Road Care Home, both in Gospel Oak, is one of the few remaining companies contracted by the council not to pay the LLW and has previously insisted the council pick up the cost of any increase in salaries to meet the LLW threshold.

On Monday, Mr Binette told full council: “We do not believe that the local authority should continue to tolerate a situation where an employer, charged with caring responsibilities for some of the most vulnerable people in society, can ride roughshod indefinitely over the council’s living wage policy.”

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Responding to Mr Binette’s deputation, Cllr Gimson, cabinet member for adult social care and health, said: “We very much agree with you that poverty wages of just over £14,000 a year are not a good basis for providing good care for our most elderly residents.

“My own view is that actually long-term Shaw will not be able to meet its contract with us if it doesn’t help us pay the LLW so they need to come to the table and they need to talk to us properly.

“The way they behaved up to now on the issue of pay is no way to work in partnership with a London council like Camden, the kind of intransigence they have shown.”

Pressure is mounting on Shaw following a recent decision by Caterlink, Camden Council’s schools catering contractor, to pay the LLW to around 300 dinner ladies at 51 schools from September.

The move follows months of campaigning from Camden Unison and a previous deputation to Camden Council from Mr Binette in November calling on the company to increase pay for its dinner ladies.