“We will win – we cannot afford for Birmingham council to win.” That was the pledge this afternoon from general secretary Dave Prentis, as he welcomed striking Birmingham carers to UNISON Centre in London.
The strikers were taking their 17th day of action, as the city’s Labour council tries to cut their hours in a desperate attempt to save money.
Under the plans, which the council claims will increase ‘efficiency,’ carers would lose money. Depending on the hours allocated to an individual, that could mount up to £6,000 a year for a worker who currently earns around £12,000 a year.
Mr Prentis (pictured above with the strikers) said that councils across the UK were watching in the belief that, if a Labour council can get away with this, they will be able to as well.
To loud cheers, assistant general secretary Liz Snape said that the council seemed to have thought: “Let’s pick on the weakest group,” but “didn’t they pick on the wrong group?”
Mr Prentis pledged the full strength of the union to back up the strikers – most of whom are women – adding that UNISON will be piling the pressure on Birmingham council and taking the dispute to next month’s Labour Party conference.
A voice from the dispute
In November, Sharon Lawrence will have been working for Birmingham City Council for 15 years. She is part of the enablement team that supports people who have just been discharged from hospital, and she has had clients “from 18 right up to 100.”
She usually spends six weeks with her clients and loves seeing them progress. “I love it when, week by week, you work with them and at the end of the six weeks, you’ve seen a massive change.”
Sharon is worried about the future though. She is a single mother and worries about providing for her daughter Amina.
“During these six-weeks holiday we’re normally going away and doing little camping trips and days out and stuff, but I haven’t been able to any of that [this year] because I don’t know what the future holds.
“I don’t know if she’s going to have any Christmas presents to open this year – I really don’t know.”