Doncaster Care UK workers are in their second week of a 14-day strike against savage attacks on their pay and conditions by bosses.
Over the last week strikers in the Unison union upped the pressure on Care UK with a series of protests at their offices. They began a Care UK strike tour with a visit to the company’s Colchester headquarters.
Around 50 strikers blocked entrances and delivery vans. Protests also took place at Care UK’s offices in Sheffield and Leeds. More are planned this week in Nottingham, Newcastle and London.
An 18-person strike committee was elected, and more workers have started to take ownership of the strike.
Striker Mags Dalton told Socialist Worker, “The strike committee has made a massive difference—it’s been fantastic. We all can be more involved now and have more of a say in our own dispute. And that’s helped us escalate things over the last week.”
Mags said the committee organises delegating jobs, organising transport to protests and strikers to speak at meetings to raise support. The workers have travelled all over Britain.
Bosses hope to grind down their resolve. But every message of solidarity or donation gives workers a boost.
The workers had struck 29 days in just under 11 weeks as Socialist Worker went to press. Their current strike ends on Sunday of this week.
Thousands of pounds have been collected for the strikers over the last week alone. Teachers, bakers, council workers, bus drivers, firefighters, health and construction workers have all donated.
When it comes to privatising the NHS, Care UK is one of the Tories’ favourite vultures. It is owned by private equity firm Bridgepoint Capital.
Labour-run Doncaster council privatised the ex-NHS service in autumn last year.
More than 90 workers have refused to sign new contracts imposed by Care UK last month.
The contracts cut pay by up to £7,000 a year, with an attempted bribe of a buyout worth 14 months pay. The severity of the pay cut means some workers would face losing their homes.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis made his first visit to the picket line on Tuesday of this week.
He railed against privatisation and workers being “sold off on the altar of profit”. He also attacked Care UK for avoiding tax.
He told strikers, “By taking on these privateers you can make a difference—actually we need more people like you to be strong and take on what is happening.”
Prentis hinted at larger action Unison, one of the biggest unions in Britain, could take. He said “we’ve got to find ways of taking them on in the rest of the country.
“We’ll make sure you’re protected. If they piss you around you’re out again.” He said, “I say, as general secretary of this union, that we will win this fight.”
Prentis mentioned going to the courts if necessary, but this dispute has never been about the legal case. Its strength lies in workers’ collective strength and the level of action they are prepared to take.
Unison rep Andy Squires explained, “If something isn’t working you have to change tack. Care UK didn’t budge after our seven-day strikes—that’s why we escalated. If we have to go longer than 14 days then that’s what we need to do.”
Mags said, “This is as much about those using the service —we’re their voice, and we’re not going to back down.
"We want victory, nothing less. And not just for us but everyone facing pay cuts and attacks on our services.”
Send donations, solidarity messages and requests for strikers to speak at meetings to: email@example.com
Make cheques payable to: Doncaster, District & Bassetlaw Health Branch and send to: Jenkinson House, White Rose Way, Doncaster DN4 5GJ
Facebook: Doncaster Supported Living Unison Strike
Gwalia care home workers walk out in South Wales
Care workers in Neath Port Talbot, South Wales, were set to strike on Tuesday of this week.
They face attacks on jobs and conditions—and a pay cut of up to 16 percent.
Private firm Gwalia Group took over residential care homes from Neath Port Talbot Council two years ago.
After initially claiming the strike would have little impact, bosses started flapping last week and claimed the action would put elderly residents at risk.
But the real threat to care comes from bosses’ attacks— which strikers are trying to stop.