NEARLY half of Scotland's social care workers are being paid less than the Real Living Wage of £9.30 an hour, a new analysis has revealed.

The hit to the frontline coronavirus workers has led to calls by the Scottish Trades Union Congress to urge employers and government to implement an immediate uplift on the hourly rate of pay to at least £2 for all key workers in Scotland.

And Unison Scotland said it would be submitting a separate claim to the Scottish Government to acknowledge the financial and emotional costs suffered by health workers so far during the Covid-19 crisis. This is for a 1% - or £500, whichever is highest - increase for all staff and would be on top of any annual pay increase for employees.

The union pointed to extra financial costs incurred by health care staff during the pandemic including having to buy extra PPE, hand sanitiser, isolating from their family, doing extra hours and additional travel costs while public transport is restricted.

Analysis by the STUC shows that 43% of the Scottish social care workforce, which is predominantly female with a high proportion of migrants, are being paid less than the Real Living Wage (RLW) - compared to 17% for across the Scottish economy.

The typical hourly rate for care workers and home carers is said to be £10.03.

And 43% of retail and wholesale workers are paid less than the RLW.

It is calculated by the charity the Living Wage Foundation and the employees earning less than the benchmark include those who have been deemed critical in the fight against the coronavirus crisis.

It comes a matter of days after Scottish Care called for a "significant" escalation in care home testing in Scotland so that when any Covid-19 case is diagnosed in any care home that all residents and staff are immediately tested.

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Two weeks ago the Scottish health secretary Jeane Freeman said social care staff were to receive a pay rise to equal the RWL in Scotland.

It is equal to an immediate 3.3% pay increase, backdated from April 1, to at least £9.30 an hour.

The STUC said their suggested uplift on the hourly rate of pay should go to all key workers who are keeping our essential systems of government running.

It also says that the UK government's statutory minimum wage should rise immediately to £10 per hour for all workers.

The Government’s national minimum wage is £8.20 for those aged 21-24 and the statutory National Living Wage for those aged 25 and over is £8.72 an hour.

STUC general secretary Rozanne Foyer said the union would be meeting with the Scottish Government representatives to push for better pay for key workers.

She said: “We know that the priority of key workers across the country during this crisis is keeping others well, safe and supplied. But just because that it their priority, it doesn’t mean we should forget their needs. We need to reverse the long-term trend of undervaluing these heroes, and we need to start now.

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“So many of these workers came into this crisis undervalued and underpaid. They are many of the same people who bore the brunt of the 2010 recession. More than half of them are women. We want to ensure that as we emerge from this current crisis history does not repeat itself.

“The country has shown great appreciation by clapping key workers’ magnificent commitment every Thursday, but we believe people want to go the extra mile for those workers and make sure they are able to pay the rent and the food bills they face."

Willie Duffy, Unison Scotland's head of health, added: "This is a very difficult time for so many across Scotland, not least our dedicated NHS staff who quite rightly have received the highest praise from the public.

"However, the reality is that our NHS staff have incurred extra costs with laundry, travel, subsistence and other costs over this period.

"And health service workers received the lowest public-sector pay award over the last few years.

"It is important that we recognise this.

"We are calling on the Scottish Government to support them financially to help them get through this very difficult time."

The latest figures show that more than half of Scotland's coronavirus deaths are now happening in care home. National Records of Scotland (NRS) data shows that 338 of the 656 deaths recorded between April 20 and 26 were in care homes.

Jacqui Neil, Scottish Care's national workforce nursing lead has admitted that staff have been left feeling "helpless and unprepared at times" to deal with their own emotional and psychological issues due to the loss they witness and the need to continue to provide quality care.

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"The facts are that despite the unbelievable pressures put upon our staff they continue to come to work each day, do overtime, with some staying within the care homes to minimise risk. This has resulted in positive realisation of the work our staff do, despite minimum wage, they do the job cause they genuinely care, the key requirement of anyone wanting a career in care," she said.

"We look forward to a ‘new normal’ that means there is no shortage of nurses and everyone can access care provided by the right person, at the right place, at the right time.

The head of Scottish Care warned on Wednesday that the nation's care sector could be left "fragmented, broken and in some places non-existent" by the coronavirus crisis.

The trade body's chief executive Dr Donald Macaskill said he appreciated the support the Scottish Government is providing, but that more help is needed to ensure the survival of the industry.

"The care home sector is facing a massive increase up to about 1,500% in the purchase of PPE, huge increases in staffing costs, and at the same time dramatic decline in the number of new admissions," he said.

"So my concern is we may beat this virus in our first battle against it, but we might be left with a sector which is fragmented, broken and in some places non-existent."

In a May Day message, Dave Prentis, the general secretary of UNISON, representing many key workers including social care staff said it would make sure that people across the country recognise the value of the work they do.

"We will ensure that everyone knows the way you've gone that extra mile in order to protect our communities," he said. "You are doing so so much to protect us, we have to protect you. And that will be our agenda for the future, once we are well, well beyond the crisis we are going through."

The union has launched a survey of members as part of campaign to ensure they receive the support and resources "they need to protect our communities".

The First Minister yesterday confirmed a dramatically scaling up of testing for coronavirus in care homes and among older people yesterday as the next phase of the fight against the disease begins.

Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that all residents and staff at care homes reporting cases of Covid-19 would now be tested, even if they were not showing any signs of the virus themselves.

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Care homes that are part of a chain will also have other branches tested in case staff have moved between locations, with sample testing also carried out in other homes with no reported cases.

Over-65s showing Covid-19 symptoms and their households will also now be eligible for the UK-wide test scheme, which allows people to apply through an online portal.

People who are not key workers but who have to leave home to go to work can also now apply to be tested at one of the sites in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness and Perth.

The announcement came as it was confirmed that a 64-year-old care home worker who had been working at Wyndford Locks in Maryhill, Glasgow, had died after catching coronavirus.

“Testing is a really important part of our efforts to tackle this virus – it is important now and will be important in the next phase,” Ms Sturgeon said.

“But it remains the case that, right now, the most important thing we are all doing is staying at home and following the lockdown rules.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The COVID-19 pandemic is having an unprecedented impact and we salute and are hugely grateful for the extraordinary hard work, dedication, skill and commitment of all those working across Scotland’s health and social care sectors during this emergency.

“We're committed to the fairest possible salary settlements for all staff, and have regular engagement with staff side, where all issues related to NHS staff terms and conditions can be discussed.

“We continue to take steps to support our staff at this time including by ensuring they have full access to enhanced overtime pay and that all staff working for NHS Scotland who are sick due to COVID-19, irrespective of their length of service, will receive sick leave on full pay until they have recovered from their illness for as long as they are contracted to NHS Scotland.

“In addition, we have also stepped in to ensure parking charges for staff are suspended for the next three months at the Scottish PFI hospitals where parking fees were still in place.”