Socialist Worker

Birmingham care workers keep up fight

Homecare workers at Birmingham City Council are set for a five-day strike. More solidarity from other workers can help them to win, says Sarah Bates

Issue No. 2631

Care strikers marching in Birmingham

Care strikers marching in Birmingham (Pic: Geoff Dexter)


Birmingham care workers are preparing for another big strike beginning on Sunday of this week.

Some 280 members of the home enablement team are set to strike for another five days.

They are fighting redundancies and brutal cuts to their hours that workers fear will leave them jobless and the service open for privatisation.

By Thursday next week the Unison union members will have taken 46 days of strikes since January.

And they voted overwhelmingly at a members’ meeting last week to continue the action.

Solidarity group Support the Birmingham Homecare Workers said, “In 2010 in Birmingham we had 1,100 homecare assistants. In 2018 we have 280.

“This is the reality of Tory austerity and it has to stop.

“We need our Labour council to stand by our side and fight for proper funding for social care and stop the race to the bottom.”

Labour-run Birmingham City Council (BCC) has unleashed a string of attacks on the home enablement service.

Vital

This is a vital council-run service that allows people to stay in their own homes following discharge from hospital.

The council says it wants to implement £2 million of “efficiency savings”. These vicious cuts will leave workers struggling to survive.

The council has already slashed the workforce by 48 percent in the last year, and now tenders out additional work to private care firms.

It wants to reduce most workers to part-time hours, and get rid of the equivalent of 40 full-time jobs. Workers would see at least £400 a month slashed from their wages, and some would see up to £800 a month gone.

This will have a huge impact on a workforce of predominately low-paid women, many who have caring responsibilities outside of work.

Strikers have been leafletting key councillors asking people if they think ­care-cutting councillors have Labour values.

BCC says it needs to save cash, but not everyone at the council is feeling the pinch.

Dawn Baxendale, BCC chief executive, is paid at least £173,995 a year. And interim corporate director of adult social care and health Graeme Betts earns at least £130,090.

A Labour council should reject Tory austerity, fight for its workers and stop paying top executives huge sums of money.

The Birmingham strikers can still win, and save a much-needed social service from privatisation and destruction.

Profile

Some 11 months into the strikes, it is a disservice to miss any opportunity to raise the profile of the dispute.

That’s why it’s good that strikers led the protest at the Tory party conference in September.

And it’s important that they joined the national demonstration against racism and fascism last week.

Actions like that mean strikers can talk to other activists, raise money and get media attention for their struggle.

But still more could be done to help them win. Unison nationally needs to use every weapon it has to push forward to victory.

This could include solidarity walkouts.

It could also involve smaller scale actions such as “solidarity selfies” with other council workers, or organising a national speaking tour of strikers.

Trade unionists should arrange to collect for the dispute hardship fund in their workplaces, and arrange to have a striker speak at a meeting.

A victory for the inspirational Birmingham home care strikers would be a victory for everyone fighting austerity.

Donate to the strike fund at bit.ly/BrumStrikeFund

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