Socialist Worker

Somerset care workers plan walkouts to stop Sirona bosses’ pay cut plan

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2629

Sirona care workers on strike in July

Sirona care workers on strike in July (Pic: Unison South West)


Low-paid care workers in Bath and North East Somerset are preparing to strike to head off attempts to slash their pay.

Unison union members at Sirona care homes plan five 23-hour strikes starting on Saturday of this week.

They are fighting the imposition of new contracts that would see them lose thousands of pounds in pay.

Sirona workers struck in June and July over plans to extend the working day and replace a paid break with an unpaid one.

Unison rep Andy McGuinness told Socialist Worker that workers aren’t “fighting for a pay rise—we’re fighting for the same low pay as before”.

Bosses announced plans to cut pay in summer 2017. Andy said the strikes are coming “at a crucial time.”

“We’ll have to see who blinks first,” he said.

Contracts

Some workers have already signed the new contracts.

But Andy explained that not everyone understood the nature of the contracts.

“Some people signed because they didn’t think they had a choice,” he explained.

“Where there is less of a union presence, workers were told, ‘You’ve got to sign’.” The predominantly women workers were issued with “dismiss and re-engagement” notices, which effectively force them to sign up to new shift patterns or lose their jobs.

Sirona bosses claim they need to slash workers’ wages to compensate for a funding shortfall.

Tory-run Bath and North East Somerset council has slashed funding to Sirona by £215,000.

Andy said that the experience of striking “has been an education in itself”.

“People have been going on the radio and giving interviews, where they wouldn’t have done that before,” he said.

The dispute is linked to the wider crisis across care services. Every trade unionist should raise solidarity for the Sirona care strikers.

Make donations to the Sirona workers’ strike fund.
Account name: Bath & North East Somerset Unison Branch
Bank name: Unity Trust Bank
Account Number: 49025813
Bank Sort Code: 608301
Send messages of solidarity to UNISON@bathnes.gov.uk

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