Care workers in Bath and North East Somerset are striking against pay cuts.
Some 120 workers at Sirona care homes struck for 24 hours on Tuesday and were set to walk out on Thursday of this week for 12 hours.
The Unison union members are fighting plans to restructure working patterns so carers would “owe” bosses 30 minutes of work per shift.
Management have said workers could take the equivalent pay cut or accrue hours and work a shift, effectively for free.
After hearing about the plans, workers returned a 95 percent vote for strikes.
Andy McGuinness has worked as a care support worker at Sirona for three years and is a Unison rep.
He told Socialist Worker, “I would have two hours unpaid breaks every week, and they were trying to give me 13 extra shifts a year.” The cuts from Sirona—who boast of “competitive salaries and flexible working options”—leave many workers worrying about how to manage their lives.
“A lot of Sirona workers are women”, said Andy. “They’re still carers in their homes, and women tend to the ones who are looking after their elderly relatives.”
Bosses say they are making cuts because Bath and North East Somerset council—which has over £12 million in general reserves—has cut £215,000 funding to Sirona.
“They’re making the cut from us, but Sirona directors earn a lot more than front line staff,” said Andy.
He explained that Unison have looked at firm’s figures and say there is money that could be used to plug the funding gap.
He argued the attacks are partly because of a legacy of Tory austerity, which has left local authorities devastated by years of cuts and privatisation. Andy pointed out that some departments “aren’t really functioning anymore.”
The strikes are an escalation from earlier action which saw workers walk out for two hours at a time.
Andy said the first strike was a “complete buzz, it felt great to be taking action, and actually quite empowering. “But then we went to two hours and hit a bit of a low.”
Last week carers rejected the bosses’ latest offer to pay a year’s worth of unpaid breaks in a lump sum.
Andy says workers told them to “stuff it” and are planning to continue the fight. But he said bosses are threatening to sack workers unless they concede.
“They said the next phase is to dismissal and re-engagement, but it would be a mistake for them to do that.”