Around 270 day centre workers in Glasgow are entering their seventh week of indefinite strike action.
The dispute began in July after the city council foisted a “single status” pay review onto its care workers that would leave some of them thousands of pounds a year worse off.
Now the council wants the workers to help implement a “service modernisation” that would hit the most vulnerable people.
They have presented care workers with a choice – accept plans to cut wage levels or agree to huge cuts in services. They have rejected both.
Three strikers, Janette Miller, Euena Campbell and Josie Hughes spoke to Socialist Worker about their struggle.
Josie said the single status review was originally set up to look at low pay for women.
“The mood was really upbeat when we first got the report,” she said. “But when we realised the scale of the attack we became very angry.
“Somebody somewhere realised that they could use ‘equal pay’ to lower people’s wages. They are using a good law for a bad purpose.”
Janette said, “We are angry and determined because we see this ‘pay review’ as a total injustice.” She believes that electoral politics are behind the cuts. “The Labour-run council is only interested in appealing to the electorate. And it’s people with learning and physical difficulties that are having to pay for that.”
The council changed the “work profile” of the day centre workers so that pay scales could be lowered.
Euena said, “The council has no idea what we do. I have been in this job for five years, and I could not believe how many people are dependent on our services. I want the councillors to take off their shirts and ties and come down and see our work.”
She joined the strike even though she will get a wage rise under the scheme. “I’m a support worker, I’m not in ‘detriment’. But some people are losing £5,800 in wages. I could not stand by and say, ‘I’m all right Jack.’
“I totally agree with my colleagues about going out on strike, and as long as they’re out, I’m staying out with them,” she added.
The workers are demanding that the job profiles be reconsidered, but the council are refusing, saying the workers are overpaid.
Now the council wants to trade the issue of wages with cuts in services.Josie said, “When they started out, the council said that there were two separate issues – the pay and benefits review to help underpaid women, and a strategy to ‘help take the service forward’.
“Now they have merged these two issues. They are saying to us that we will only get our money if we agree with ‘service modernisation’. Under this plan the council will close day care centres under the pretext of ‘working in the community’.
“They produced a document that set out plans to use local facilities. We took that on board and use all the facilities that are available.
“Then in the same document they say that the centres should be shut.
“The term ‘in the community’ sounds good but in reality it involves dumping us in shopping centres. They say its a ‘bad thing’ to keep people in buildings, and they should be out – but out where?
“We have specialist training kitchens, changing facilities and toilets at our centres. Are we going to find that in shopping centres? We have trampolines for physical therapy that use hoists – they don’t have these in sports centres.
“The council is saying, ‘You can have your wages back, but first you have to agree to what we will do to your clients.’ This is bullying and blackmail.”
The strikers say that is a battle for all public sector workers and solidarity is key to its success.
“We have had great support from other unions, the public and service users,” said Janette.
“People come up to get involved in making placards and notices – doing lots of wee bits and pieces to help. We go out to trade union meetings giving talks on the strike.”
Euena said, “It took two or three weeks for the strike to make the news. But now we have started to make an impact on the council.
“If we accept this rotten deal the council will clap their hands like performing seals.”
Josie had a message to the council. “I was on a course paid for by the council where we were told, ‘A society is judged by how they treat the weak’. So where are their morals? How do they sleep at night?”
Please send messages of support to [email protected] and post messages and donations to Unison, 4th floor, 18 Albion Street, Glasgow G2 4PF.