Care workers in Barnet, north London, walked out for 48 hours on Tuesday of this week.
The strike was the latest in an ongoing pay dispute with outsourcer Your Choice Barnet (YCB) and the Tory-controlled council. Unison union rep Keith told Socialist Worker, “We’ve had no pay rise for six years and they want us to take a 9.5 percent pay cut.”
Tory-run Barnet Council bosses are intent on commissioning rather than providing local services. Since setting up YCB as a local authority trading company in early 2012 staffing levels have been cut by a third.
The latest attack on workers’ pay was supposed to be about saving £400,000 a year. But the council is handing tens of millions of pounds in contracts to private firms such as Capita. The council’s chief executive is currently paid £187,613 a year.
Bosses are refusing to back down and say workers must accept the pay cut, but the YCB strikers are strong. Workers know the council will have to be forced to the negotiating table.
News of Malcolm Rifkind’s claim that surviving on a MP’s income is impossible only deepened the workers’ sense of outrage at the attacks on their pay.
Keith said, “I have to work a second job, not for a nice holiday home in Tuscany but just to survive. Rifkind should come and work here and see how he gets on.”
YCB workers can beat the Tories in Barnet and push back the bosses’ attacks, but they will need to escalate their action.
And trade unionists need to rush solidarity to help them win.