Birmingham’s heroic home carers are gearing up for a fresh week of action that will see them strike, picket and protest.
Members of the 285-strong home enablement team are facing attacks that will see their full-time jobs slashed to weekly shifts of just 14, 18 or 21 hours.
They also face another round of redundancies from the Labour-run council despite enduring 48 percent jobs cuts in the last year.
The Unison union members struck for two consecutive days last week and were set to strike on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of this week.
They also plan to walk out between 19 and 22 August and from 28 August to 1 September.
The home enablement team is a free council-run service, which supports people in their homes in the six weeks following discharge from hospital.
But the cuts are so huge that carers are worried the cash-strapped council wants to bin the service altogether.
The strikers are lone workers and have no central workplace, so they have picketed Birmingham council’s Central Administrative Buildings (Cab). Mandy Buckley, home carer and senior Unison steward, told Socialist Worker that at least 30 strikers picketed all four Cab buildings and received “loads of support. “We gave council staff information on why we’re striking, we covered both entrances, and the car park too.
Management weren’t too impressed—they weren’t expecting it.”
Strikers say at first bosses tried to bully them into accepting punishing new shift patterns, or to take redundancy packages.
Mandy says that although she believes no members of the home enablement team are breaking the strike, management will still try to undermine the dispute.
And she says that’s one of the reasons workers are organising so much activity during the action.
“It’s not a few of us striking, it’s not just a majority—it’s all of us”.
And strikers say that solidarity is bringing them confidence in the dispute.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis spoke at last week’s strike rally outside a council meeting.
He said the council cuts would leave “the most vulnerable in our society struggling.”
But Mandy says the workers are determined to win, and that they have been left with “no other option” but to strike.
Trade unionists should bring branch banners to the strike rally this Saturday and show solidarity.
Donate to the strike fund. Cheques payable to “Birmingham Unison”. Make clear it’s for the hardship fund. Send to Mclaren building, 35 Dale End, Birmingham, B4 7LN