The spirit of resistance - despite the snow! (Pic: Guy Smallman)
Hundreds of striking home care workers marched through snow in Birmingham on Saturday declaring they would fight to defend their jobs and the service they provide.
The Unison union members marched through the city centre chanting, “Home care workers, here to stay!” The workers struck between 11am and 2.30pm and plan to walk out again on Tuesday 6 February.
The Labour-led council wants to slash the number of home carers by 40 percent.
The home enablement team visit people who have recently been discharged from hospital, and work with them to develop the abilities for independent living.
Council changes would also introduce a split shift rota system. The service is currently provided 7am-10pm. The changes would mean carers work 7am-10am, 12-2pm and 4-10pm.
This would mean effectively working 16 hours but only getting paid for 11.
Mandy has been a home carer for 16 years. She told Socialist Worker, “People need the quality service we deliver.
“These changes would have a huge impact. It would mean you can’t take your kids to school or tuck them in bed at night.”
Tracey Mooney, the Birmingham branch Unison deputy secretary explained some of the challenges of being a lone worker.
“Last week a home carer was attacked, and a few weeks ago one was locked in a house and the police had to let her out.
“It’s difficult to mobilise people when there isn’t a central workplace. We’ve been holding meetings so people feel they’ve got the support. We got a massive vote to strike—99 percent, so we’ve shown it can be done.”
Cuts in 2011 meant home carers lost £5,500 a year—now they earn just £9.23 an hour.
Mandy said many have taken second jobs to make up the shortfall. And she explained that bosses were telling carers if they couldn’t do the new rotas they would have to go part time.
Mandy said the attacks from the Labour-led council are “disgusting—they are supposed to support us. I think they are cutting the service back so they can say that it’s not needed any more, or to sell it off.”
Mandy said the rally “gives us a voice. We have got to make a stand for the people who need this service— and if we stick together we can win.”
Unison must support the strike at every level—and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn should publicly support low-paid workers, even if they are fighting against a Labour council.
Details of solidarity at bit.ly/2F0AGTr
Send messages of support to [email protected] Make cheques payable to Birmingham Unison and make it clear it is for the hardship fund