Socialist Worker

Striking care workers in North West England win support from service users

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2644

At the strike rally in Liverpool

At the strike rally in Liverpool (Pic: Unison North West/Twitter)


Care workers across the North West of England began a 48-hour strike against attacks on their pay on Saturday.

It involved 660 Unison union members at the Alternative Futures Group (AFG).

Workers care for vulnerable adults who live in their own homes and need support at night.

There were strike rallies in Liverpool, Burnley, Rochdale and Tameside. Hundreds rallied at St George’s steps in Liverpool where strikers held “Care at night, pay us right” and “Maximum care, minimum wage” placards

AFG bosses are slashing the rate for overnight sleep-in shifts by £15 for each shift—a huge blow to an already low-paid workforce. Care worker Emma said, “The sleep-in payments are a lifeline to me and my family.

“I can’t afford to carry on working in this job if they don’t pay us for our time.”

Management are pushing through the attack after the High Court ruled last year that workers on night shifts don’t have to be paid an hourly minimum wage. This means bosses can get away with paying workers a flat rate of around £40 for a nine hour shift.

Some care workers at AFG work three overnight shifts a week—and stand to lose £2,000 a year from the bosses’ attacks.

Backing 

The action follows an 87 percent vote for strikes and AFG pulling out of talks at the conciliation service Acas in February.

Emma said the workers had the backing of the service users that they support. “The care users’ families have been very supportive,” she said. “They know we’re doing this for the good of the service.

Home care workers put pressure on councillors in Birmingham
Home care workers put pressure on councillors in Birmingham
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“This can’t go on as it is and we’re all supporting each other to make sure AFG change course,” she said.

Tim Ellis, Unison north west regional organiser, blasted AFG for “acting opportunistically in cutting sleep-in top-up payments”. “Sleep-in top-up payments form a really important part of workers’ incomes and help them to be able to afford to stay in their jobs,” he said.

“For the sake of the viability of the service and the well-being of service users, it is vital that these payments are restored.”

AFG claims it can’t afford to pay workers the same rate—even though its funding from local authorities hasn’t decreased. And, while AFG has called on central government to tackle “social care funding in crisis”, workers shouldn’t be forced to pay the price of Tory austerity.

Workers should be ready to take more action. And they could link up with striking home care workers from Birmingham care service and outsourced health workers at Liverpool Women’s Hospital.

 


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