Socialist Worker

‘Cut pay or we’ll close Essex care homes,’ says firm

by Kelly Hilditch
Issue No. 1990

A private company is threatening to close ten nursing homes if workers don’t accept cuts in pay and conditions. This could result in hundreds of elderly, vulnerable people being left on the streets with no one to care for them.

Nursing home staff in Essex are being given this stark choice – take a cut or have your places of work closed down.

Excelcare Holdings took over the running of ten nursing homes from the county council in March of last year. It now says that it is not making a profit.

Its ten homes provide a place of residence and care for over 400 elderly residents.

A number of the original staff transferred with the homes have already left their jobs since cuts in pay and conditions were introduced.

These came in through a supposed voluntary scheme to give up existing pay and conditions for a one off payment in compensation.

A care worker at one of the homes told Socialist Worker, “Care of the elderly is something that we should all have a part in as a society.

“I don’t understand why the council handed over the homes. Why are we trying to make a profit from caring for people?

“These are people who have paid their taxes, many of whom fought in the Second World War. They have paid their dues.

“Excelcare wants us to do the same jobs for less money – or it’ll have ‘no choice’ but to close the homes. This is blackmail.

“What sort of choice is that? It’s not like we earn huge amounts, but it wants to cut wages.

“It won’t be able to get experienced, qualified carers on the cheap – so it’ll get inexperienced, unqualified workers instead.

“And that will result in residents receiving worse care.

“It’s the same as schools bringing in classroom assistants because they’re cheaper than teachers. It makes no sense.

“We need to fight to make sure that people are looked after in their old age. And that means fighting for the money to make sure that people are looked after properly when they are no longer able to look after themselves. It also means fighting for decent pensions.”

Workers at the nursing homes, who are represented by the GMB union, could lose over £120 per week under Excelcare’s proposals.

Michael Ainsley, the GMB regional organiser in Essex, told Socialist Worker, “The GMB has advised our members working in the homes not to submit to the cuts in pay and conditions. We know only too well that that is the road to low pay and long hours.

“That can only attract unskilled staff and ultimately puts care home residents at risk.

“Excelcare managers are trying to get them to give up their entitlement to proper pay and conditions. This threat of closure is part of that.”

Figures used by councils to support the case for a handover say that it costs £18,000 a year less to care for a resident in a private care home than it does in a council-run home.

This means that there is less money being spent on the residents.

Privatisation of council-run nursing homes is being pushed through across Britain.

It is a continuation of the government’s policy of privatisation of housing, health and education.

But in response campaigns across the country are fighting this latest round of privatisation.

Around 200 campaigners marched on Inverness council’s headquarters last week to protest against plans to privatise seven nursing homes.

They carried placards bearing slogans such as, “Honour thy father and mother—don’t sell them off.”

As a result of the protest the council has postponed making a decision until May.

Campaigner Sheila MacKay said, “These residents, their families and the staff deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.

“They have a right to know their future is genuinely secure.”

In Durham, a recent rebellion in Labour’s ranks in the county council saw plans to shut down nine homes thrown out after an outcry against the policy from local people.

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Article information

Sat 4 Mar 2006, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1990
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