Staff from 16 residential care homes will walk out today over Glasgow council’s plans to alter job roles, change shift patterns and reduce pay.
Unison Scotland said the two-day strike is in response to new shift patterns that will see 182 staff lose up to £1,495 per year in pay, as well as introducing 12.5 hour shifts.
The union is also opposed to moves that will see social care assistants administering medicine and says the new arrangements will reduce staff to resident ratios at night.
“We have not taken action lightly but have no alternative,” said Brian Smith, branch secretary of Unison City of Glasgow.
“The lowest-paid staff are being asked to take on new tasks like dispensing medicines – and at the same time they are being forced to work longer shifts and to accept massive pay cuts.
“We are concerned increasing shifts to twelve and a half hours – and reducing staff/resident ratios at night – will undermine the standard of care that we can provide.”
Glasgow council defended the changes, which it says have been agreed to by the vast majority of staff in the homes.
“We have been very surprised that Unison has refused to offer ‘live and limb’ cover, just as we are very disappointed that Unison has moved to strike action at all,” said a council spokesman.
“The new workforce plan, which meets the wish of staff for more weekends off and for greater contact with residents, has been agreed to in writing by 93% of staff.”
The spokesman also added that the changes will see 160 temporary staff given permanent contracts.
“At a time when there is still great uncertainly in the economy with increased use of zero-hours contracts we believe it is a major plus that we can offer temporary staff secure employment.
“By moving staff to permanent contracts we can help to reduce the council’s reliance on agency staff within our care homes. This represents a good deal for staff, the council and the council tax payer, but primarily for care home residents, who will enjoy enhanced continuity of care.”
The spokesman said that no employees will see their core salary reduced and the reduced pay reflects the new shift patterns, which mean that some staff no longer work unsociable hours and so will not get unsociable working hours payments.
Social care assistants who will now be asked to administer medicine will be given “full training and support,” he added.
The council also rejected Unison’s claim that night-time staffing ratios will be reduced.
“We have increased the staffing levels in each of the new units and we will move from a staff to residents ratio (day time) from 1:10 to 1:7.5 and a staff to residents ratio (night time) from 1:15 to 1:10,” said the spokesman.
“In the specialist dementia units the ratio during the day will remain at 1:5 and will increase to 1:10 at night. Improved staff-resident ratios were something staff asked for.”
Of the 536 staff affected, 111 took part in the Unison ballot and 82 voted for strike action.