Socialist Worker

Sage care home workers return to picket line in fight for higher pay

by Sophie Squire
Issue No. 2778

Sage care home strikers in the lobby of Freshwater House

Sage care home strikers in the lobby of Freshwater House (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Workers at the Sage care home in north London are back on the picket line over bosses’ failure to meet their demands. 

The UVW union members protested outside Freshwater House—and briefly occupied the lobby— in central London on Thursday. It’s home to companies headed by Benzion Freshwater, a billionaire property developer who sits on Sage’s board of trustees.

They are demanding the same pay and terms and conditions as NHS workers—at least £12 an hour—workers and union recognition for the UVW.

The workers walked out in some of the harshest pandemic conditions at the beginning of the year after voting 100 percent to strike. Talks have led nowhere and UVW members are angry at the dismissal of two long-standing members, Adam and Shamila.

Care worker Julia told Socialist Worker that management made promises, but haven’t delivered on them in the last year. “The situation for us has changed” she said. “I would actually say it’s got worse.

“A big problem now is staff shortages.

“We went from having four or five people working on one floor now we are sometimes down to two. You are expected to do the same amount of work as four people, and it’s just not possible you can’t provide care to the same level.

“It’s dangerous.”

Most of the Sage strikers are black, Asian and migrant workers.

Signs 

Workers held up signs reading, “Dignity in care,” “Poverty pay,” and, “Short staffed—short staff risks lives.” There was a lively atmosphere on pickets with music and dancing.

Striker Adam said that low wages and increases in the cost of living are hitting workers hard.  “People are struggling on our wage to pay the bills,” he told Socialist Worker. “It’s worrying how even food is getting more expensive.” 

Adam added that workers are angry at management’s attitude towards them. “You feel like you’re being followed everywhere,” he explained. “You feel like they think we can’t be trusted. It feels like disrespect to me.” 

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Trade unionists, including from Unite and Unison, brought their solidarity to the pickets.

Helen Davies, Barnet Unison branch chair in north London, said, “The care sector is in a critical condition. Care workers have put themselves at risk due to Covid and across the sector there is a 17 percent vacancy rate.

“We need to fight to change crap, terms and conditions.”

In a rousing speech, striker Bile told the picket line, “We work 8am to 8:39pm every day. We work in hard conditions and we respect the residents. 

“One of our colleagues had to get surgery but was forced to return because they couldn’t pay the bills.

“We need proper sick and holiday pay. 

“We are skilled workers and we won’t be treated like robots anymore. We won’t stop if they don’t give us what we want—we’ll keep going.”

Trade unionists and campaigners should build solidarity for the Sage strikers. 


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