CARERS across West Dunbartonshire walked out today in the first of two days of strike action in a row over pay.

Groups gathered outside of Clydebank Health Centre in Queens Quay and West Dunbartonshire Council’s (WDC) headquarters in Dumbarton from 8am to 10am calling on the local authority to “give every home carer the right pay grade”.

They later joined home care staff from Renfrewshire and Falkirk Councils at a rally in George Square in Glasgow.

Dumbarton and Vale of Leven Reporter: GMB Scotland members at George Square on Wednesday, April 10GMB Scotland members at George Square on Wednesday, April 10 (Image: Kirsten Muat)It comes after GMB Scotland confirmed last week that industrial action would be taking place in West Dunbartonshire on Wednesday, April 10 and Thursday, April 11.

The trade union said this was due to members ‘overwhelmingly’ supporting strikes following a grading review that reportedly failed to reflect their increased responsibilities.

Kirsten Muat, GMB Scotland organiser at WDC, told the Reporter that the decision wasn’t taken lightly but carers “had been given no other choice”.

She said: “GMB Scotland has been working with a large group of home carers at WDC who know the job inside out.

“We’ve worked through the job evaluation scheme which is how they [WDC] figure out the pay grading of every worker in the council and we know that they [home carers] should be a grade five.

“This isn’t because we’ve plucked grade five out of the air. The tasks, skills, knowledge, and physical effort mean that carers should be a grade five based on the council’s own job evaluation scheme.

“We want WDC to move every home carer to the right pay grade and to give every home carer the right back-dated pay.

“Morale in home care is at an all-time low. Carers haven’t taken strike action for nearly fifteen years and it’s not something they do lightly but they’ve been given no other choice.

“They’ve got their voices and they’re not scared to use them to say ‘this is what we’re worth and we’re not going to take a penny less’.”

Dumbarton and Vale of Leven Reporter: GMB Scotland members outside of Clydebank Health Centre on Wednesday, April 10It is reported that home care staff at WDC are currently paid grade-four wages.

According to the trade union, the recent grading review was said to have been the first review of West Dunbartonshire care workers’ roles in 16 years.

However, WDC said this was not the case as reviews had been carried out in 2007, 2008, and 2016.

The union went on to add that it did not believe that the review recognised the skills and specialist experience of staff and failed to properly assess their new responsibilities of delivering care and support.

This is something that Kirsten highlighted following Wednesday’s action.

She added: “There are a few things that the council is refuting one of which is communication.

"WDC maintains that home carers should be a level one out of six for communication.

“If you think about the role that a home carer does it’s unjustifiable to say that they should be a level one out of six for communication, the lowest possible score.

“It means that WDC is saying that the extent of communication staff use is basic in terms of speaking to their colleagues or service users.

“So all the difficult and complex conversations that they have to have, every time they support someone who is end of life or have to speak to someone with dementia and try and figure out if they’ve had a shower or food that day, WDC isn’t paying them for any of that.

“They’re saying the extent of the communication is basic. WDC also refute that home carers administer medication.

“Carers in their job profile have to prompt medication but the line between prompting medication and administering medication is getting greyer and greyer.

“We have concerns that WDC’s definition of prompting medication is getting closer to administering.”

Strike action will continue for a second day in the local authority on Thursday, April 11.

WDC has been contacted for comment.