Why Unison Home Care workers are going on strike

Birmingham Trade Union Council has received the following request of support from the Branch Secretary of the city’s UNISON branch representing the Birmingham’s Home Care workers.  Support the protest on Saturday 11 August in Victoria Sq from 12 noon till 2.30pm.

I am writing to update you on the dispute being fought by our home care enablement assistants. Last year Birmingham City Council put forward a proposal to cut the enablement service by 40% and to bring in a 3 shift in one-day rota.

Our members in home care passionately believe in the work that they do. The service they provide is a vital one as they are out in the community often the first person someone will see when they are bought home after a hospital visit. So when the council said they had to cut the budget unison members voted to strike as they know the service is needed and they knew the shift pattern would make them too tied to do their job properly.

The staff wanted to try to draw up their own rota to cover the shifts and management agreed to this if we called off action as they were worried about strikes in the run up to the local elections. They also knew that we had to re-ballot after 6 months. So they offered to let the staff draw up rotas, we called off 5 days of strike action then as soon as the election was over they stopped the staff self-roster pilot. We re-balloted and again the members voted in a 57.5% turn out by 97.3% to strike.

Management have now issued a new business case to make all the staff, 60% of whom are full time or work over 30 hours redundant or offer them a contract 22.75, 21 or 14 hours. Management say that they want the 286 staff to fit into the new service where there will be 90 contracts of 22.75 hrs, 82 contract on 21 hrs and 54 contracts of 14 hrs. Staff will be expected to fit into 3 working patterns or leave. They will be asked to work 7 days out of 14 working opposite days each week. 14 hours’ contracts will be 7-11am. 21 hr contracts 4-10pm and 22.75 hr contracts of 7-11 and 12-2.30. This will make it almost impossible to get a second job. Management have made de it clear anyone not fitting these patterns will be made redundant. This will impact on those with caring responsibilities or with a second job already. The hours being offered do not fit with claiming universal credit or working tax credits accessed currently by staff.

These rotas are designed to make staff leave.

At the same time management have engaged an external consultant to look at the merger of the Birmingham and Solihull STP footprint and social care and health services for older adults. They have agreed to spend £12 of this work. The company are called Newton Europe and they are charging very high consultancy rates to councils all over the place on how to make cuts. It’s clear that they want to merge the services with staff on the lowest terms and conditions they can get away with.

Our home caters are not prepared to see their lives ruined, service user’s services cut by another £3m while the council pay £1,400 a day to a man in a suit without a fight. Our 282 home care members are heartbroken by this proposal but they are also organised and angry.

Members have voted to take 14 days’ strike action over the next 6 weeks and they would really appreciate your support. We cannot allow low paid women workers to be treated in this way.

Please send messages of support or donations to the hardship fund by contacting info@birmighanunison.co.uk or write to the branch office at UNISON, 19th Floor, McLaren Building, 46 The Priory Queensway., Birmingham B4 7LR.

Best wishes

Caroline Johnson, Branch Secretary, Unison Birmingham Branch

[from the BTUC website at http://btuc.org/wordpress2/]





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