Organising in homecare

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Conference
2017 Local Government Service Group Conference
Date
23 February 2017
Decision

Conference notes that members working in homecare suffer some of the worst working conditions in any sector in the UK, with widespread abuse of zero-hour contracts, breaches of minimum wage legislation, and non-payment of the time spent travelling between domiciliary care visits.

Conference recognises the work done by UNISON at all levels to highlight these issues and develop strategies to address them. Conference applauds the work of branches, regions, and our national local government, legal and press teams in experimenting with different organising models, and putting pressure on councils and providers to adopt UNISON’s Ethical Care Charter. But given our low membership density in this sector, the significant barriers to unionisation and the scale of the exploitation, conference believes we must find ways to extend and consolidate this work.

Conference notes that the care sector sustains itself on the goodwill of a workforce that is composed overwhelmingly of women, and disproportionately of Black women. Conference notes that the BBC has reported several instances of Black women care workers in Haringey branch being paid an hourly rate of £3.27. Conference stands in solidarity with this workforce and denounces our current government and the employers concerned for their callous and outrageous disregard.

Conference recognises that the vulnerability of a workforce overwhelmingly employed on zero-hour contracts demands a nuanced and multifaceted organising approach. Conference believes that we must develop unified and complementary industrial, political and legal strategies if we are to decisively challenge the balance of power in the care sector.

Conference appreciates that in a time of public sector cuts, homecare is one of the few sectors in which the workforce has grown due to demographic change and the UK’s ageing population. We recognise that the issues faced by care workers will not go away until we extend nationally our efforts to organise, unify and build power within the workforce.

Conference reaffirms its belief that homecare is best provided by public bodies, where it is subject to proper democratic oversight and accountability. However conference recognises that the sector is currently dominated by private commissioning models, and therefore that we must challenge problems within these commissioning models at the same time as we challenge outsourcing itself.

Conference instructs the Service Group Executive to conduct a comprehensive review into the campaigns and projects UNISON is currently engaged in in the homecare sector. This review will involve consultation with branches, regions and the national office to share experience and develop best practice for extending our organising efforts in this area, including ways to complement industrial organisation with political and legal approaches.

Conference reaffirms its commitment to the Ethical Care Charter, and instructs the SGE to review the materials available to branches and regions on its implementation. This review will compare its adoption in different local authorities with a view to drawing up a model implementation plan to be made available to branches and regions for negotiations.

Conference instructs the Service Group Executive to provide up-to-date bargaining guidance to branches on outsourcing and commissioning models in social care, including help with identifying potential issues and legal claims.

Conference calls upon branches to use their initiative in organising care workers in their areas. Conference recognises that some branches do not have the capacity currently to deal with additional private sector casework, and therefore instructs the Service Group Executive to provide up to-date guidance on options to resource this, alongside guidance on organising in the fragmented homecare workforce.

Conference calls upon UNISON’s Labour Link Committee to campaign for the Labour Party to adopt UNISON’s Ethical Care Charter as national policy, and to introduce it in general and local election manifestos.