Some Southern Cross staff to be offered worse job contracts

Ailing care home operator Southern Cross has said that some staff could face reduced terms and conditions when it introduces a new standard contract of employment as part of an operational restructuring.

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Ailing care home operator Southern Cross has acknowledged that some staff could face reduced terms and conditions when it introduces a new standard contract of employment as part of an operational restructuring.

Speaking to Community Care, its chief executive Jamie Buchan said the company needed to introduce a “single methodology”, having inherited 24 different contracts as a result of the companies it had bought in the past few years.

It is unclear what this will mean for staff, but the revelation will be seized upon by unions, who earlier this week warned of declining care standards and worsening terms and conditions for staff when the company announced it was axing 3,000 jobs and introducing a swathe of new care roles alongside the new contract.

Among those at risk are 300 nurses, 1,275 care staff, almost 700 catering posts, 440 domestic jobs and 238 maintenance posts, though the firm stresses this is only a maximum number and proposals were still to be refined.

The GMB union today claimed in a story in The Sun that Southern Cross wanted to introduce new “general services assistants” who will both prepare food and clean toilets, which it has said will increase the risk of infection.

Speaking yesterday to Community Care, national officer Justin Bowden said: “Staff are confused and worried sick in equal measure.”

Southern Cross insists that the job losses will not in themselves lead to home closures and are designed to address over-staffing in some services.

It is talking with the GMB union, but Buchan said the job losses would ultimately allow it to invest in the firm and improve care standards by introducing a degree of consistency.

Historically the company has been afflicted with high levels of staff turnover, which unions say is due to poor management and low pay, though turnover rates have since been reduced from 33% a year to 21.5%.

Buchan said the company was faced with “differing employment processes”, meaning it had some homes with good staff practices and low staff turnover levels and other homes with high staff turnover levels, which affected the quality of care.

It is now trying to spread best practice “across the network” through 153 staff champions.

Buchan insisted the company has a future and added: “I have said to the staff that we are in a very difficult situation, Southern Cross in particular, and the industry in particular, but there’s a very strong case for nursing care and residential care in this country. There’s a critical lack of funding, clearly, but there’s an industry here.”

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