Socialist Worker

Birmingham care strike to save services

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2629

Birmingham home care workers led a march at the Tory party conference in September

Birmingham home care workers led a march at the Tory party conference in September (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Care workers are unleashing a huge wave of strikes at Birmingham City Council after a successful five-day strike from last Friday.

Over 270 Unison union members plan 15 days of walkouts this month, with more dates planned for December.

They voted unanimously at a members’ meeting to continue their fight.

Workers plan to start a five-day strike on Thursday of next week and to strike for a further five days from 25 November.

The workers are fighting £2 million worth of “efficiency savings” to their service—which mean cuts to workers’ hours.

Pay

Members of the home enablement team have been fighting for around 18 months to stop a slew of attacks on their pay, terms and conditions and jobs.

The Labour-run council wants to reduce workers to contracts of 27, 23 and 16 hours a week. And bosses said workers should get a second job if they want more cash.

Unison senior steward Mandy Buckley told Socialist Worker the plans would leave workers unable to “pay their mortgage or survive”.

“When they’ve already got full time hours, why should they look for another job?” she said.

Why women workers are still fighting to win equal wages
Why women workers are still fighting to win equal wages
  Read More

The council also wants to force through a programme of voluntary redundancies, flexible working and “lateral moves” where workers transfer to other council jobs. The council has already reduced the workforce by 48 percent in the last year through an earlier series of redundancies.

Bosses are also proposing rotas that change on a fortnightly basis, which would make it impossible to get another job to fit around the irregular hours. And a transition to part-time hours would also affect workers’ access to benefits and pension entitlements.

After a barrage of cuts, management have tendered out a growing number of care packages to the private sector—effectively semi-privatising the council-run service.

But Mandy said the home enablement team are able to “provide a different type of care” from the private sector.

“Carers are rushing to get in and rushing to get out because they’ve got so many calls to cover,” she said.

“With an ageing population, the council should be giving us more hours not less.”

Resistance

The Birmingham home care strikers have now taken 34 days of action since January.

Many are first-time strikers. But Mandy said they feel unbowed by the bosses’ attacks. “It’s been a long year, but the morale is still high,” she said. “Everybody is in it until we find a solution.”

Every trade unionist should build solidarity for their fight in their workplaces and union branches

Donate to the home care strike fund at bit.ly/BrumStrikeFund

If you enjoy Socialist Worker, please consider giving to our annual appeal to make sure we can maintain and develop our online and print versions of Socialist Worker. Go here for details and to donate.

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.