Doncaster Care UK workers began a three-week strike on Monday of this week.
They are demanding a £7.65 an hour living wage for new staff and a meaningful pay rise for others.
The Unison union members provide care for adults with learning disabilities and were privatised last year by Labour-run Doncaster Council.
Bosses at Care UK imposed new contracts earlier this year. They slashed hundreds of pounds a month from some workers’ pay.
Strike committee member Nicky Naylor told Socialist Worker, “Our terms and conditions have been brutally attacked.
“People have lost their homes and are leaving in droves. We cannot bear to work for a company that doesn’t see anything other than profit.
“Don’t Care UK, as we prefer to call them, are only interested in lining their pockets.”
Nicky said the strikes are having an impact on other staff. “We’re not prepared to watch those we care for being looked after by people not getting paid properly.
“New starters on just £7 an hour are beginning to realise what we’re fighting for.”
After six months and over 50 strike days, workers are clear their dispute is about opposing the privatisation of care.
A flurry of mainstream press coverage has led to more solidarity messages and donations to the strike fund.
Every message and donation gives strikers a boost. But the national union has a bigger role to play.
Unison rep Andy Squires told Socialist Worker, “With all the attention we’ve had recently it would be a great time for the union to capitalise on it.”
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis, on a visit to the picket line in May, hinted at larger action Unison could take. He said, “We’ve got to find ways of taking them on in the rest of the country”.
Andy said, “It would be nice to see Unison encourage other members to take their disputes forward and coordinate action with us.”
Does Labour back the dispute?
Strikers spent their first strike day marching through Sheffield with over 200 people in miserable weather to join the People’s March for the NHS.
Trade unionists from the Unite, Unison and GMB unions joined Labour and Green Party members on the protest.
Anger at the Tories was obvious.
But one local Labour politician was heckled over the party’s history of privatisation with shouts of, “Who started it?”
Demands were also made for Labour to support the Care UK strikers.
Labour has said it will repeal the Tories’ Health & Social Care Act.
But its leader Ed Miliband, a local Doncaster MP, has yet to support workers in his own backyard fighting its consequences.