Carers for adults with learning disabilities in Doncaster struck for 48 hours from last Sunday. The Unison union members are fighting Care UK bosses’ attempts to slash their pay and conditions by forcing them to sign new contracts.
They have already struck for two weeks in the last month. A further four days of strikes were set to be announced as Socialist Worker went to press.
Care UK won the £7 million per year contract for the service from Doncaster Council last year. Previously it was provided by the local NHS trust.The attack on workers could set a precedent in the increasingly privatised NHS.
“I’m losing £5,000 and eight days holiday a year, and they are making a huge cut to my sick pay too,” one striker told Socialist Worker.
“This is a test case. It’s the first time anyone has stood up to them. They’re cutting our wages to push us out of the service,” she said.
Striker Lisa Wilson added, “The people we work with have complex needs, and what Care UK proposes is going to cause so much disruption to all of that.
“It’s worrying if experienced staff are going to go. Some have built relationships up over 20 or 30 years.”
Unison rep Kirstine Carbutt told Socialist Worker, “It’s not even about the money. This is about privatising public services.”
In a clear sign that their plan to force workers to sign the new contracts has not yet worked, bosses last week extended their deadline for a second time.
What was once supposedly unmovable shifted as workers fought back. But the company still claims that without further funding workers will have to accept the attack on pay and conditions.
“They use the fact that the council have put a reduced budget in as a stick to beat us with,” said Kirstine.
But Care UK is not short of cash. It made £4.6 million profit in just the first three months of 2014 and have assets worth over £640 million.
“We are determined to fight them,” Kirstine said. “But what they’re doing to the service is demoralising. The one thing that’s lifted me up has been going to speak at meetings—it’s turned me into a right militant.”
A picket line rally was held on Sunday with trade unionists from Sheffield, York, Chesterfield, Leeds and Barnsley bringing solidarity collections. The local food bank came the following day to help any strikers in hardship.
Trade unionists everywhere want to see them win. But it doesn’t need to be a long drawn out battle.
The lesson of recent strikes by care workers in Glasgow and lecturers in Edinburgh is that escalation is the way to win.
You can support the Doncaster Care UK workers in their fight for pay and the future of the service
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