Over 100 striking care workers joined a noisy rally in the centre of Doncaster today, Saturday. The Unison union members are in the middle of a seven-day strike.
The workers care for adults with learning disabilities and are striking over cuts to evening and weekend wages by their employer Care UK, a private healthcare firm.
The atmosphere on the demonstration mirrored that of the picket line – big, lively and determined. Passing cars tooted in support.
Strikers spread themselves outside Mansion House, the council headquarters, some with collecting buckets, chanting "Low Pay No Way" and brandishing placards.
There were banners in support from Unite the Resistance and the People’s Assembly.
One striker told Socialist Worker, "There are people who have worked for the company for 10, 15 or 20 years and they're losing a fortune – people face losing their house. If we don't fight for what's rightfully ours we'll lose everything."
But like many of the strikers, she was clear that the action was as much about the impact of the cuts on the service as the cuts to workers’ pay.
She continued, "I was proud to get a job in the NHS. But with Care UK there's no pride. My friend working for the NHS went on a two-day training course, but at Care UK you only get four hours. And there's no support for people new to care work."
The striker pointed out the pressure care workers face not to strike, saying, "This was one of the toughest decisions. We're in this job because we care – we're carers!"
"But being part of the strike is so uplifting, seeing everyone here. So many of us have never done this before.
“And we're getting to know each other – with the shifts we work you never see the people who you work alongside and we've all been a part of organising what we're doing each day of the strike."
"We have to make a stand now".
Unison regional organiser Jim Bell told Socialist Worker, "Care UK has held back on negotiations to test Unison's determination to strike.
“But the response from our members has been tremendous and we are clear that if necessary we will take further action to defend our members."
The demonstration saw a short but buoyant rally. Many speakers announced and delivered collections for the strikers. The solidarity received so far has had a huge impact on the strikers resolve to see the dispute through.
A vote was taken at the rally to see if strikers were willing to strike further. The response was a unanimous yes.
Cheques can be made payable to: ”Doncaster, District & Bassetlaw Health Branch” and sent to: Jenkinson House, White Rose Way, Doncaster, DN4 5GJ.
Join the strikers in their activities during the next four days' of action.