50 days on the picket line: the care workers who earn the same striking as working

Community Care catches up with the Care UK strikers in Doncaster who say they won't stop until they are paid a 'decent living wage'

care uk strikers
Care UK strikers on the picket line. Photo: Doncaster Unison

This week the strike being held by Care UK workers in Doncaster will pass the 50-day mark making it one of the longest strikes in health and social care history.

The dispute dates back to last September when the learning disabilities service the striking staff work for was outsourced from Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust to Care UK. The Doncaster service provides care for 130 adults.

But Care UK says that the 50-day milestone is misleading, as it adds together two separate disputes the group of workers have had. The first, a bid to keep their former terms and conditions, was resolved in court in Care UK’s favour.

Now, in a second dispute, the staff are fighting for better pay. Some of them say their wages have been slashed by up to 40% by Care UK.

The strikers’ union Unison says the transfer to Care UK saw the staff given a reduced rate for evenings or weekends worked. The staff say the reduced rate means they now earn the same on the striker’s wage paid to them by Unison as they do working for the provider.

Roger Hutt, a senior support worker and Unison representative, said: “I’m losing £500 a month. That’s my mortgage gone. Care UK doesn’t recognise our skills.

“They’re saying they can employ people on minimum wage who can do just as good a job as us. Well, that’s nonsense. It takes a very long time to understand how to work with very complex people with very complex needs.

“If we leave and they bring in people who are not suited to the job description, that’s a real concern for us for the well-being of our service users. They’re putting people at immediate risk.”

Going on strike has been difficult to do professionally, he added: “I’ve done this job all my life but, like a lot of people in this dispute, I’m having to walk away from the people I care for. They’re like part of my extended family. Having to walk away is absolutely heart-breaking. It feels like a bereavement.”

Care UK says that the workers transferred from the NHS trust have had their pay rates maintained at around 50% higher than care workers in comparable services.

“We haven’t touched a penny of their basic salary and have given them a sum of money to cover the difference for fourteen months,” said a Care UK spokeswoman. “We are confident that, with the expected low participation in the industrial action, coupled with our robust contingency plans, people depending on this service will be able to continue to enjoy their normal day-to-day activities.

“This is an essential social care service, funded by a local council, which must find over £100 million of savings. It is not an NHS service funded by an NHS commissioner with ringfenced funding.”

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4 Responses to 50 days on the picket line: the care workers who earn the same striking as working

  1. opinionmatters August 30, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

    No one seems to mention that this is a completely new strike since the last one was thrown out and the union ended up paying careuk cost, but funny how that doesn’t make any articles!

    I was actually in favour of the workers the last strike as it’s hard for anyone to take a reduction in wages, but this one makes me laugh. The last strike the ex NHS staff were criticising the new careuk staff, yet now since they lost their case, they are fighting for the loving wage of these new staff, bit hypocritical you think?

    Not supporting this one I’m affraid, I’m sure this one will be thrown out also.

  2. Mike Marshall September 1, 2014 at 10:49 am #

    The same situation arose in Rochdale in similar circumstances. I found a Union Rep collecting money for the strikers despite them being paid by Unison whilst on strike. Beggars belief. Are other union members aware of where their subscription money goes. I think not!

  3. FN September 1, 2014 at 8:37 pm #

    I wonder if the salaries/bonuses/benefits of Care UK managers will decrease as well in order to save the company money.

    It’s a shame that they see their HCAs as expendable. As has been seen in other healthcare companies, if you cut salaries to the bare minimum, you will also cut staff motivation levels and interest in care and it’s obvious where that can lead to.

    Speaking as an agency HCA who has worked in a number of Care UK homes, it looked to me as if they had started to make significant cuts to their frontline services long ago. I cannot imagine what they will look like after these further cuts.

  4. Richard B September 5, 2014 at 5:16 pm #

    @Mike Marshall as a Rochdale unison branch member and a steward, I for one am proud that my subs went towards supporting the members and their families who made the difficult decision to strike to protect their pay, terms and conditions. Not sure what point you are trying to make, what would be a better way for a union to spend it money than actually on the members in their time of need!

    Why should we accept a race to the bottom on pay and T&C’s, the bosses (Care Uk) certainly aren’t!

    ‘Revenue for the nine months ended 30 June 2014 increased by 13.4 per cent. to
    £545.6 million compared with the nine months ended 30 June 2013′
    above information taken from the care uk website