Doncaster Care UK workers finished a 14-day strike last Sunday in their continuing battle against bosses’ savage attacks on their pay and conditions. The Unison union members have now struck for 34 days since the end of February.
Care UK is a privatisation specialist and one of the vulture companies feeding off the privatisation of the NHS.
New contracts from Care UK cut workers’ pay by up to £7,000 a year. They attack pay enhancements for working evenings, weekends, bank holidays and night shifts. But 93 workers have refused to sign the contracts imposed last month—and they now face dismissal.
Care UK Unison rep Janet Howles told Socialist Worker, “Bosses are beginning the process for terminating our contracts. But the 93 are still strong and learning lots.”
Workers have now formed a strike committee.
Striker Mags Dalton told Socialist Worker how this helped workers to be “more actively involved in organisation of strike activities”.
She said, “As a consequence of this an itinerary was organised for the 14 days of strikes.
“A full coach of us went to the company’s headquarters in Colchester, Essex, demanding to speak to the hierarchy of Care UK. We also took road trips to Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle, hitting Care UK offices there.”
A coachload also visited the London headquarters of Care UK’s owners, private equity firm Bridgepoint Capital.
Striker Theresa Rollinson explained to Socialist Worker why they were there.
“Bridgepoint are in this purely for the money—they’re fat cats living off the work of people like us,” she said. “You should not mix the NHS with profit.”
Up to 250 people turned out for a solidarity rally in Doncaster last Saturday.
An angry march took to the streets around the town.
A teaching assistant and Unison member watching the demo pass told Socialist Worker, “We have our own ballot coming against pay cuts. I’m all for the Care UK strikers—they’re absolutely right to strike.”
Striker Roger Hutt told the rally, “We will be continuing this dispute in the face of extreme adversity and intimidation. We simply cannot allow these carpet-bagging, bottom-feeding profiteers to get away with it.”
Mags told Socialist Worker that strikers voted overwhelmingly to continue the dispute at a mass meeting last Sunday.
She said, “We believe we are in the ascendancy and that we can win this dispute.
“The fight goes on.”
South Yorkshire and Humberside Unison regional organiser for health, Jim Bell, had a message to the rally on Saturday.
“We do not beg for support from the wider trade union movement,” he said. “We demand it.”
Jim told Socialist Worker, “This is a testing ground for our ability to organise and for the employer’s determination to smash terms and conditions.
“Everybody is watching this. We have to win. If we don’t, the message will go out to all the other employers that Unison did their best but it wasn’t good enough. And we’re going to make damn sure that it is good enough.”
More strike dates are expected to be announced.
The Care UK strikers are at the forefront of the battle against privatisation of the health service. Donations have poured in to back the Care UK strikers—and it’s vital that this solidarity continues.
A victory for the Doncaster workers will be a victory for the whole trade union movement.
Make cheques payable to Doncaster, District & Bassetlaw Health Branch and send to Jenkinson House, White Rose Way, Doncaster DN4 5GJ