Socialist Worker

Birmingham home care strikers defy bosses’ scheming

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2618

Birmingham home care workers at a recent strike rally

Birmingham home care workers at a recent strike rally (Pic: Geoff Dexter)


Care workers in Birmingham have vowed to carry on striking until they save their service from total destruction.

The low-paid women workers are fighting job cuts and bosses’ plans to force them onto part time hours.

Over 270 Unison union members began a four-day strike last Sunday, following five days of action earlier this month.

They plan to strike for another five days from Tuesday of next week—and members voted unanimously at a meeting to call more action for September.

The home carers have been picketing Birmingham council’s Central Administrative Buildings—where up to 80 strikers have leafletted other council workers.

Senior Unison steward and home carer Mandy Buckley told Socialist Worker that mass activity was the key to keeping momentum during the action. “We’ve done so much,” she said. “We’ve had a film screening of Made in Dagenham.

“Tomorrow members are going out leafletting the streets, neighbourhoods and shopping centres.

“They want to be so active, people even want to go out leafletting after a meeting ends at 10pm.”

The carers work alone and Mandy said the strike is an opportunity for the whole workforce to organise together.

“We are united, we are a team together,” she said. “The north and south team are striking together, and bosses can’t say others aren’t striking because we’re meeting each other.”

The home enablement team is a free council-run service that supports people in their own homes following discharge from hospital.

Unleashed

But the Labour-run council has unleashed a series of attacks on the service, including job cuts and proposals for a punishing new shift rota.

Workers have said that management used heavy handed tactics to force through a voluntary redundancy (VR) programme that reduced the workforce reduced by almost half.

And Mandy said bosses are “trying to push a VR trawl”.

The severity of the attacks are fuelling workers’ determination to keep fighting.

Strikers are worried that bosses want to hollow the service out, ready to be privatised.

This means the action is solid, and Mandy said “only a handful” have broken the strike and returned to work.

Although there are rumours of talks going on in the background, Mandy said carers will “carry on striking until everything’s written down in black and white”.

Council bosses reneged on an earlier promise to introduce “self-roster”—a system where workers pick their own shifts. So strikers are wary of halting action before victory.

“We’re not stopping until we get a result”, said Mandy.

“There’s so many of us on strike and we’re sticking together. This is something we haven’t done before, but we know this is what we’ve got to do to win”.


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