Care workers at two councils in England went on strike yesterday over proposals to change their terms and conditions and slash pay.
Hundreds of Unison members walked out over Birmingham Council’s plans to introduce new contracts from 1 November.
The union has dubbed them “Martini” contracts because, in reference to the drink’s former advertising campaign, “staff could be asked to work ‘anytime, anyplace, anywhere’.”
Unison claimed the changes would remove various pay rates for working unsocial hours and mean extra insecurity over employment.
“Our home carers, cooks, cleaners, residential care assistants, children’s home workers and countless others simply can’t afford to have their pay cut by 30%, 20% or even 10%,” said Graeme Horn, joint branch secretary of the Birmingham branch of Unison.
Despite the strike, the council claims that services ran normally yesterday.
“Industrial action is always regrettable and disappointing but we have contingency plans in place for such outcomes,” said Alan Rudge, Birmingham’s cabinet member for equalities and human resources. “They were proven to be effective as recently as this summer when the vast majority of city council services operated as usual when a similar one-day strike was staged.”
Unison members in Doncaster were also on strike yesterday, claiming that proposals to cut jobs, slash pay and change terms and conditions for staff were “not necessary”.
But Rob Vincent, chief executive of the council, warned that the alternative was to cut frontline services.
“I am disappointed that they decided to take this course of action just as we are about to enter into formal negotiations with them to seek the best way forward through agreement,” he said.
“The council has already saved £30m in 2011-12 and now has to find £26m from its 2012-13 budget. Given the cuts we have already made, if a significant amount of this – up to £7.5m – does not come from terms and conditions we will have no option but to look towards frontline services.”
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