By Elizabeth Howcroft
LONDON (Reuters) – A group of investors managing a collective $3 trillion in assets will call on operators of nursing homes to improve pay and working standards for care workers, noting the “devastating outcomes” of the COVID-19 pandemic on the industry.
Aviva Investors and BMO Global Asset Management are among the more than 90 investors which have teamed up with UNI Global Union, which represents 20 million workers worldwide. Its subsidiary UNICARE represents two million careworkers.
The coalition will send a statement later on Thursday to private care home companies and real estate owners, setting out their expectations on issues such as health and safety standards, staffing levels and pay.
In the statement seen by Reuters, the investor group will say that the pandemic highlighted the “direct link between poor working conditions and quality of resident care”.
Although availability of data varies, it is generally accepted that the COVID-19 death toll among nursing home residents around the world has been high.
In April 2020, the World Health Organization said up to half of the COVID-19 deaths in Europe were of residents in long-term care facilities.
The move is the latest in a series of investor initiatives that aim to use their financial clout to influence corporate decision-making in favour of environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.
Many of Britain’s biggest investors refused to participate in Wednesday’s IPO of food takeaway firm Deliveroo, citing poor treatment of delivery workers.
The funds’ statement noted care workers were mostly women and often minorities, earning low wages on part time hours or precarious working arrangements.
More than half of care workers say they do not earn enough to cover basic needs such as housing and food, and 31% do not have adequate access to personal protective equipment, research by UNI shows.
“We must seize this moment to ensure the industry changes for the better and develops a more humane and resilient model,” the statement said.
Raising wages to a living level and minimising the use of precarious contracts are among the measures to be proposed.
Care home operators should also respect workers’ rights to organise a union and bargain collectively, the investors will say.
The statement will be sent to companies including Orpea, the Ensign Group, Chartwell and Sienna Senior Living.
The investor signatories aim to set time-bound targets and, if companies fail to show progress, this could affect the investors’ decision-making and support for board members, a spokesman for UNI said.
“Covid has shone the spotlight on the social risks facing investors,” said Doug McMurdo, chair of the UK’s Local Authority Pension Fund Forum, which manages 300 billion pounds ($413.2 billion) of pensions.
“While many of the risks to staff, clients and investors in the sector are not new, the impact of the pandemic does demand they are now urgently addressed,” he said.
($1 = 0.7259 pounds)
(Reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft; Editing by Jan Harvey)