Socialist Worker

Birmingham care workers can strike a blow against council cuts

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2632

Birmingham care workers need as much support as possible

Birmingham care workers need as much support as possible (Pic: Geoff Dexter)


Care workers in Birmingham are keeping up their fight against brutal council cuts.

The low-paid workers walked out for a further five days from last Sunday against redundancies and attempts to force them onto part-time hours.

The 280 Unison union members recently voted to continue their action.

By the end of this round of action they will have struck for 46 days, and further walkouts are planned.

The predominantly women workers could lose up to £11,000 a year in the latest attack from Labour-run Birmingham City Council (BCC).

Even the least-affected workers will lose £5,000 a year.

Another group of workers in the city is also under attack. The Unite union will ballot bin workers after it alleged the council made “secret payments” to people who had not taken part in strikes last year.

If they vote yes, workers could be out during the Christmas period.

Home care strikers were planning to leaflet three major council offices this week—Woodcock Street, Lifford House and Sutton New Road.

They’ve also been campaigning in leading councillors’ wards and talking to residents about the dispute.

This is not the first attack that home carers have suffered.

Dramatic

BCC tried to rush through a dramatic change in split shift patterns in 2017. This would have seen workers effectively work 16 hours but only be paid for 11.

Although the new rotas haven’t been implemented yet, the local authority slashed the workforce by 48 percent in the last year.

The latest cuts come after BCC spent £12 million on paying a private consultancy to “redesign” its adult social care services. The review recommended a £2 million saving from the home enablement service.

The home enablement service is a free, council-run service that’s available to everyone in Birmingham after they’re discharged from hospital. But workers fear the attacks will open the door for privatisation. As fewer service users would be able to access the free care, they would be forced to turn to private sector care packages.

The care workers are far from unique in the cash-strapped local authority.

Just this week, a new raft of cuts was announced—including the slashing of all 189 lollipop men and women from Birmingham’s streets.

Labour council leader Ian Ward said it has to make the cuts because the Tories have slashed its budget by some “£650 million since 2010”.

“Sadly we anticipate having to make further cuts of £123 million by 2021/22,” he said.

The pressures on BCC reflect a wider crisis in local government. Councils across the country are expected to have a collective shortfall of £5 billion by 2020.

But it’s not enough for BCC to blame Westminster—they are plunging hundreds of women into poverty.

The council must stop spending money on expensive “redesigns”, reverse the care worker cuts and properly fund a service that allows people to live a dignified life.

Send messages of support to info@birminghamunison.co.uk
Donate to the strike fund online at bit.ly/BrumStrikeFund
Make cheques payable to Birmingham Unison and make clear it’s for the hardship fund. Contact Birmingham Unison to arrange a home carer to speak at your union meeting
 
 

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