The GMB union plans to launch a major campaign in the autumn to bring pay for staff in private sector care homes up to the same level as council-run homes.
It said the minimum wage of £10,500 that applies to frontline carers in the private sector should be increased to the £13,989 minimum salary paid to staff in council-run homes.
National officer Sharon Holder said: “You can’t expect people to provide a quality public service when you are only paying them the minimum wage.”
She admitted that private providers faced pressures such as a tightening of funding from councils, and said the government had not made any efforts to resolve the problem.
“There needs to be recognition that privately provided care on behalf of local authorities is a public service, and therefore the workforce should be treated with the same degree of fairness as any other part of public services,” Holder said.