We need a living wage for all mothers and other carers


petition_me.jpgCampaigners collect signatures for the living wage petition in Kentish Town Road

Published: 13 March, 2015
by NINA LOPEZ, of Global Women’s Strike

THIS Sunday is Mother’s Day and last Sunday was International Women’s Day, so women are in the news.

As the general election looms women voters are being courted and, in some constituencies, our votes may be a deciding factor. But what’s not in the news is what many of us women want: financial support for the fundamental caring work mothers and other carers do for society.

Austerity has disproportionately hit women and children. Earnings have dropped, particularly for care workers on zero-hour contracts. On March 2 catering staff (dinner ladies), residential home carers and other Unison members demanded that Camden Council ensures they are paid a living wage.

A number of us from the Global Women’s Strike joined their protest in solidarity.

The caring work mothers and other women do at home is not valued. When we go out to a job, it is often more caring work, this time undervalued and low paid. And while those of us who are immigrants are scapegoated by politicians, especially before elections, we do some of the lowest paid caring jobs and keep the NHS going.

As the rich get richer more of us are dependent on food banks.

Camden, which went along with abolishing council tax benefit and implemented the bedroom tax, is overseeing “Dickensian” poverty. It is the worst borough in London for malnutrition, with reported cases increasing almost nine-fold over the past five years and has one of the highest rates of child poverty: more than half of Camden children (56 per cent) live in low-income families.

One mother resorted to a food bank after her benefit was reduced by multiple court orders for council tax and other debts.

Camden told another woman on disability benefits, and struggling with bedroom tax, that she was better off than a jobseeker so would not get discretionary help.

The campaign for a living wage is on various political manifestos. But mothers and other family carers are left out.

That’s why we’re launching an international petition calling for every worker, including mothers and other carers, to be paid a living wage: www.globalwomenstrike.net

Valuing caring work would help bridge the income gap between women and men and attract more men to caring. From our experience of petitioning in Kentish Town Road, there is overwhelming support. Many people who stop to sign are well aware that women are the first carers and the poorest. They are furious that the authorities take advantage of our caring work.

Many organisations are endorsing, among them Food For All, and solicitor Gareth Pierce, John McDonnell MP and Carole Duggan (Mark Duggan’s aunt), who has been campaigning for justice for her family, a part of caring which many mothers, sisters, wives and aunties know well.

Devaluing caring work devalues people. We see it in hospitals and care homes as scandal after scandal exposes neglect and worse. A living wage for mothers and all carers would make people, not banks and businesses, the priority; our survival, our health, our wellbeing, and that of the planet which sustains us all.

The petition is being launched at the Crossroads Women’s Centre on March 14. It is international because we are all fighting for life in a global market and we care about everyone’s wellbeing.

The launch will include an exhibition “Honour Mothers, Honour All Carers” singling out Eleanor Rathbone who fought for and won Family Allowance and other forgotten heroines.

Everyone is invited to speak about who they want to honour and bring a photo if they can.