Socialist Worker

Bosses offer deal to end longrunning Care UK dispute

Raymie Kiernan considers what is at stake for Doncaster Care UK workers as they vote on a new offer

Issue No. 2429

Workers at Care UK marking their 81st day on strike in October. This was when their dispute became Britain’s longest ever health strikePicture: Socialist Worker

Workers at Care UK marking their 81st day on strike in October. This was when their dispute became Britain’s longest ever health strike (Pic: Socialist Worker)


A new offer has been presented to Doncaster Care UK strikers as bosses try to end the long-running dispute with the workers’ Unison union.

A new three-year deal gives a 2 percent pay rise from October this year and 2 percent or the CPI rate of inflation—whichever is greater— in 2015 and 2016.

Bosses are also offering a £500 lump sum to staff transferred from the NHS last year when Labour-run Doncaster Council privatised the supported living service.

“This is a moral victory,” Care UK striker and Unison rep Roger Hutt told Socialist Worker. 

“But this means losing 35 or 40 percent of your wage and being offered 2 percent over three years. 

“I think it is all too obvious that we are substantially worse off.” 

Striker Theresa told Socialist Worker, “I lost £400 a month, but this only gives me £30 a month. And we have no assurance that our basic pay is protected. I’m voting No.” 

Roger said strikers were feeling “rather raw” as the reality of the offer set in but were “immensely proud of what we have achieved”. 

For over eight months they have battled Care UK and their private equity owners Bridgepoint Capital. 

Bosses slashed their pay, forced one out of their home and many more into new jobs. Strikers have made Care UK a toxic brand.

Embarassment

The strike has also been a source of huge embarrassment for Doncaster’s Labour MPs, including party leader Ed Miliband. Strikers have asked why Labour doesn’t support their struggle.

It’s clear that bosses were still under pressure, not least from the prospect of another three-week walkout at Christmas. Just two months ago they offered the transferred workers nothing.

But new staff, who earn £7 an hour, are being offered just 14p extra an hour with no £500 lump sum.

It will be a bitter pill to swallow for the strikers who want to reject the deal after months of promises from Unison’s leadership to do “every­thing in our power” to beat Care UK. That national union backing never fully materialised. 

But the strikers are now a minority of the workforce. There will be pressure to accept the deal as the union leadership is not offering an alternative strategy to win more.

If not for the strikers’ own organisation and the wider solidarity they have received the dispute would have ended a long time ago. 

Adam Lambert, Unite union convenor of the victorious St Mungo’s Broadway workers, underlined the significance of the dispute.

He told Socialist Worker, “Care UK strikers encouraged us to fight. Their struggle has been an absolute inspiration.”

Theresa said, “They haven’t broken us, in fact it has only strengthened us and that will take us forward to continue to defend Care UK workers’ interests.”

Roger echoed that. “I’ll be in London this Saturday at the Unite the Resistance conference to continue to argue that the private sector has no place in healthcare.”

Unite the Resistance Striking Together—Organising to Win conference. To book for the conference on 15 November go to uniteresist.org

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