Care workers in Neath Port Talbot, south Wales, were set to strike on Tuesday of next week. They face attacks on jobs and conditions—and a pay cut of up to 16 percent.
Some 450 members of the Unison union voted by 80 percent to strike. Their action runs for 12 hours from 7am.
Private care and housing provider Gwalia Group took over residential care homes from Neath Port Talbot Council two years ago.
“This has come like a bolt from the blue,” Gwalia Unison rep Sam told Socialist Worker. “When the council put the service out to tender, we were assured we would be transferred to as near a like-for-like employer as possible.”
The workers are worried about what the changes will mean for their elderly residents.
“Providing quality care means regular and consistent contact with those who rely on us,” explained Sam.
“But they are proposing to deploy staff over several locations. Some would also be expected to work in different roles from what they initially applied for.”
Workers are also bitterly angry at the contempt shown by management.
Sam said, “Many of us have invested a lot of time in training and have diplomas in care. But we could face downgrading and redundancy if we don’t accept these new conditions. Yet care home managers are set to receive a substantial pay rise.”
Last year Gwalia Group secured a long term loan worth £35 million—saddling it with heavy interest repayments.
Its debts amounted to three quarters of its assets, according to an annual financial viability judgement by the Welsh government in March this year.
The Welsh government also blamed management failings relating to a new maintenance contract for putting the firm’s finances under “considerable” pressure.
Gwalia workers visited a rally for Care UK strikers in Doncaster last month (see box) and are now gearing up to take on their own bosses.
“This is a cost-cutting exercise when they know staff feel vulnerable due to the economic situation,” said Sam. “Workers are paying the price for the bosses’ mistakes.”