Angry Bristol care workers plan to step up their fight against “fire and rehire” bosses with two 48-hour strikes, starting this Sunday. And, after three successful 24-hour strikes and a rally, there are signs that the St Monica bosses are feeling the pressure.
Unison union members at St Monica Trust charity are furious after bosses demanded sweeping changes to their pay and conditions. Some workers stand to lose thousands of pounds a year from cuts to enhancements for working unsocial hours.
Paid sick leave is to be halved, handover times reduced and catering and cleaning roles merged. Bosses have insisted they will fire staff who refuse the changes.
If they succeed in slashing these workers’ pay, they will feel able to launch fire and rehire attacks on other staff. There is also a danger that other care providers could follow.
Carers and relatives speak of a deteriorating quality of care inside the Trust’s care homes as many experienced staff have left. A reduced core of often new and inexperienced staff find themselves supervising large numbers of agency workers.
One striking worker told Socialist Worker that inexperienced, young staff had sometimes been required to provide end of life care without debriefing or adequate support, a recipe for trauma. Bosses tried to head off strikes by stepping up pressure to sign the new contracts. They even sent residents and relatives letters claiming “no colleague will be worse off”.
On the eve of the first strike, managers repeatedly rang workers to ask whether they’d be joining the action, something employees are not obliged to disclose.
However, as workers have resisted some cracks have appeared. First, bosses offered to maintain pay rates for one year if workers signed new contracts. When it became clear strikes were going ahead they doubled this to two years. But these concessions do not address workers’ grievances.
The “Council” that runs St Monica’s Trust—including six members from the infamous Society of Merchant Venturers that has its origins in the slave trade—insists there’s a financial need for change.
But the charity’s accounts show, “The Trust’s financial position at the end of 2020 was strong, with unrestricted reserves of £38.8million and net assets of £305.6million.” They are now spending huge sums on agency workers and hiring security guards to monitor picket lines.
St Monica’s strikers have received lots of public support, with several unions, including the RMT, sending speakers to last week’s strike rally. It’s crucial this solidarity continues.
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