Birmingham City Council must stop burying its head in the sand, says UNISON

Hundreds of Birmingham care workers take strike action

Hundreds of Birmingham care workers are taking further strike action over the weekend and into next week after talks with the City Council over plans to cut their hours broke down.

Birmingham City Council says it needs to save around £2 million and plans to do this by slashing the hours of care staff working for its enablement service.

UNISON met with Council leaders, including chief executive Dawn Baxendale, earlier this week but the talks were unable to break the deadlock.

The carers will be on strike from today (Friday) until Tuesday.

During this time they will leaflet the wards of Dawn Baxendale, assistant chief executive Jonathan Tew, and corporate director of adult social care and health Graeme Betts.

As well as these wards, they will also be leafleting those of leader of the council Ian Ward, deputy leader Brigid Jones and cabinet member for social care and health Paulette Hamilton.

On Tuesday staff will also be protesting outside Birmingham City Council buildings Lancaster House, Lifford House and Sutton New Road from 7.45am, and outside Woodcock St. and Victoria Square at noon.

Under the Council’s plans some care staff could see their hours cut from 37 hours to just 14 a week. UNISON says the changes could take them below the poverty line, or leave them with no choice but to look elsewhere for work, which could put untold pressure on the service if care staff vote with their feet and leave.

Birmingham’s enablement service helps the elderly and adults who have been in hospital, or are recovering from an illness or injury to relearn skills such as washing, dressing and cooking.

Since the cuts in hours proposals were announced at the end of July, care workers have been on strike throughout August and September.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “This service is being brought to its knees because Birmingham City Council continues to bury its head in the sand.

“These dedicated care workers don’t want to go on strike, but the Council has left them with no other choice. These heartless plans will leave them unable to support themselves and their families, or will mean they’ve no alternative but to look for better-paid work.

“If the Council loses such a significant number of care staff it will have a huge impact on the many elderly and vulnerable adults across the city who rely on this service.

“Councillors need to look at making savings elsewhere. They are unfairly picking on hard-working care staff who are already on low pay.”

Notes to editors:
– Some of the care workers on strike are available for interview:
Caron said: “I lost my partner two years ago so I’m the only one bringing in money to pay the bills. The thought of losing hours is stressing me out. I worry that while we’re on strike people are being held up in hospital.”
Sharon said: “I’ve had to cut down on socialising, and sometimes even food, because I don’t know what the future holds so I need to save all the money I can. Christmas is just around the corner and it’s a constant worry.”
– 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 both the public and private sectors.

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