Blog: A broken system – in our economy and in social care

Let’s show solidarity with members at St Monica Trust care homes, who are taking strike action as their employer tries to fire and rehire them

Christina McAnea

Every day we’re confronted with increasingly dire warnings about the state of the UK’s economy. We’re told a recession is on its way, the Bank of England continues to hike up interest rates and inflation just keeps on rising.

And this morning, we learned from the latest labour market statistics, that for seven months in a row, workers’ wages have fallen. In the last quarter, wages were 3% lower in real terms than last year.

The only workers that seem to be immune from wage decline are those in the financial sector – seeing their pay rise by some 20%. But some of the lowest paid workers, who do the already undervalued work of caring for our loved ones when they need it, are in a very different situation.

UNISON members at St Monica Trust care homes in the South West of England are set to lose thousands of pounds, together with a watering down of their sick pay.

Despite a national shortage of care staff of around 150,000, the most experienced staff are earmarked for the biggest cuts. The insult is compounded with the threat of the sack unless they accept the pay cut. Fire and rehire tactics are simply appalling, and the trust has hurt the workforce even more by advertising for agency staff at an hourly rate of £16.81 – £7 more than what the St Monica workforce is currently earning.

Our members at St Monica care homes have already taken strike action, but this week they will take part in a further 48-hour strike, in each of two care homes. They’re left with no option, because they need to make their employers see sense and agree to meet with UNISON to negotiate, and to allow workers representation in meetings.

We could face a new wave of COVID this autumn and the care sector cannot afford to lose experienced and dedicated staff. Treating staff this way could push them out the door for better paid jobs in supermarkets just down the street.

The crisis we’re seeing in the care sector and the behaviour of employers at St Monica are symptoms of a broken system that does not operate in the best interests of service users, their families, workers or society. Huge profits are being made by care home owners at the expense of everybody else.

We need a national social care service that strips out profit making, puts investment back into care and gives workers career progression, financial stability, and respect and dignity in their working lives.

Until that happens, we will continue to see similar disputes with unscrupulous employers, because UNISON will be backing our members to demand better.

Share this message today to show your solidarity for striking care workers.