Care services are being hit across England, Wales and Northern Ireland today as members of Unison and Unite walk out in protest over pay.
More than half a million workers including social care staff are expected to take part in the strike action after they rejected a 2.45% increase from employers. Unite and Unison are asking for a 6% pay rise, or 50p an hour.
Some services exempt
A spokesperson for Unison said as many as 250,000 care staff allied to the union could be involved.
Branch members said the most vulnerable service users would not be put at risk after they agreed with councils to provide cover for exempt services, such as children’s homes and disabled people’s centres.
Christine Wade, home care convener for Unison’s Leeds branch, where around 3,000 social care workers are striking, said: “It’s not just about 2.45%, it’s about the next two years that they want to negotiate by December. Hopefully this will bring them back to the table.”
John Davies, assistant secretary of Unison’s Tower Hamlets branch in London, said workers were fed up with taking below-inflation pay rises, which amounted to pay cuts because of increases in food, petrol and housing costs.
The approved social worker added: “The last time we took national strike action in 2002 we managed to gain a one percent increase. That amounted to an extra £350 a year for scale six staff.
“Inflation affects the poorly-paid workers such as care staff more, especially in London where the housing costs are very high.”
£3bn in reserve
Unison’s general secretary Dave Prentis said local government employers “are sitting on £3bn worth of efficiency savings made by our members they could use to settle the strike now”.
He added: “The pounds in local government workers’ pockets are turning to pennies. The cost of everyday essentials like milk, bread, petrol, gas and electricity are going through the roof – our members cannot afford to take another cut in their pay.
Brian Baldwin, chair of the employers’ side of Unison’s negotiating body, questioned Unison’s mandate to strike “when only 13% of their membership voted for it”.
He said the last offer of 2.45% was “our final offer”.