Birmingham care workers celebrate momentous victory

Long-running strike looks to be over

UNISON members are celebrating today (Wednesday) after claiming victory in a dispute with Birmingham City Council over plans to make ‘indefensible’ cuts to the hours of low paid care staff.

The union has been at loggerheads with the local authority since July 2017 when councillors announced plans to make around £2 million of savings by slashing the hours of care staff working for its enablement service.

Over 200 low-paid care workers, 96% of whom are women, would have lost up to £11,000 a year as a result of the cuts, says UNISON.

It has taken 82 days of strike action, over an almost two-year period, for the council to finally reverse its damaging plans. This is believed to be the longest dispute in West Midlands history.

Birmingham City Council is expected to formally agree to drop the proposals at a cabinet meeting on 22 May.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “If the council really is withdrawing these proposals, then it’s a vindication for these incredible care workers.

“For well over a year they’ve fought against plans which put their jobs at risk and threatened massive pay cuts these low-paid workers could ill-afford.

“It’s been an incredibly difficult time for them. They’ve repeatedly taken strike action, not because they wanted to, but because they knew they had to.

“From the outset our whole union has stood with these care workers because their fight matters to all of us – as it matters to the communities these care workers serve.

“UNISON members have earned their right to celebrate a momentous victory. And they can hold their heads up high. I am proud they are part of our union.”

Media contacts:
Anthony Barnes T: 0207 121 5255 M: 07834 864794             E:a.barnes@unison.co.uk
Ravi Subramanian, UNISON West Midlands regional secretary         T: 0121 685 3171 M: 0790 434 3342 5 E: r.subramanian@unison.co.uk

Notes to editors:
– Under the council’s plans, some care staff would have seen their hours cut from 37 to just 14 a week. UNISON said the changes would potentially take workers below the poverty line, or leave them with no choice but to look elsewhere for work. This would have put untold pressure on the service if care staff voted with their feet and left.
– Homecare workers balloted to strike with 99% voting in favour.
– 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.
– 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.