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 level in 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.
She added: “There needs to be a 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.”