Care staff announce strikes over fire and rehire plans

St Monica Trust workers line up five strike days

Care workers, registered nurses and residential home staff employed by Bristol-based care company St Monica Trust have announced a series of strike dates over threats to sack them unless they accept a pay cut, says UNISON today (Friday). ​

More than 100 staff at four care homes across the south ​west of England were told in March that they must accept inferior new contracts – costing them thousands of pounds a year and watering down their sick pay – or be fired, says ​the union.

The first strike to oppose the move will take place on 29 June, with further action planned for 2, 5, 10 and 11 July. Strikes will take place in the trust’s care homes across South Gloucestershire, North Somerset, and Bath and North East Somerset, UNISON says.

Trust managers have earmarked the longest-serving and most experienced workers at the homes – the Russets and Sherwood, John Wills House, Charter House and Garden House – for the biggest cuts, says UNISON, despite a national shortage of experienced care staff.

The pay threat is ​effectively pushing workers towards other care employers and possibly from the sector altogether, the union says.

Weekend pay rates will be cut for senior care workers by 21% under the plans, while other staff are being asked to take a 10% hit to their salaries, the union says.

This means a decrease of around £400 a month while the cost-of-living crisis is intensifying, UNISON adds.

Staff are also upset that while they face pay cuts, the trust is advertising for agency staff at an hourly rate (£16.81) that is £7 more than workers doing the same jobs currently earn, UNISON says.

Families of residents in the workers’ care have been angered by the trust’s ‘fire and rehire’ tactics and are unhappy that the fees they pay have increased while wages are being cut, says the union.

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Going on strike is always the last option. But when an employer is determined to cut the wages of already low-paid care staff in the middle of the cost-of-living catastrophe, employees have little choice but to take action.

“Relatives of those in care are rightly worried about what these changes will mean. Agency staff who don’t know or understand their loved ones will be parachuted in to replace experienced workers. Levels of care will fall and costs will go up.

“Threatening staff with the sack if they don’t agree to savage cuts is short-sighted and cruel. Trust claims that some will be better off is a fig leaf to cover the depth of cuts for the most experienced staff. All workers deserve to be paid fairly.

“The trust must reverse ​its decision now for the good of residents and staff.”

Notes to editors:
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.