The Trade Union Bill: T’s story

I work as a night awake care assistant in a residential home for the elderly

The residents are of various ages, with different abilities – both mental and physical. I joined this sector by accident at first and then found I enjoyed it immensely.

The best part of the job is the interaction with the residents: the humour and the stories they tell, the way they face up to the limitations that age and illness has forced upon them without complaint.

The worst days are when a person in your care falls ill and they have to be sent to hospital. This is made worse if they have no family, as in the night we can not accompany them as there are not enough staff to spare.

If this individual has dementia, it is awful – who is there to comfort, reassure or speak for them?

I feel it would be wrong to use agency staff: not that they are any less qualified or caring, but because they wouldn’t know the residents as individuals and, more importantly, the residents wouldn’t know them.

There are health and safety issues as well, some individuals need specialist equipment to be moved, and it takes time for them to trust that you are not going to hurt them or drop them.

To see someone they don’t know putting them in a sling etc, could cause distress and panic – maybe causing injury at the worst or putting back months of patient reassurance.

My biggest concern about using agency staff is the impact on the continuity of care for the residents. And it is also an affront to their dignity to have strangers washing, dressing, toileting and performing other aspects of personal care.

How would you like to strip off in front of a different stranger everyday!

Apart from the total lack of dignity and choice that using agency staff would mean for these vulnerable individuals, their safety would also be compromised.

Agency staff would not be familiar with the fire exits, where extinguishers are, what the fire drill is, who is able to walk, those that need two staff members to mobilise them or even just the layout of the building.

Then add in the fact that the residents wouldn’t recognise the agency staff and in their confusion, may refuse to cooperate.

I feel that the Trade Union Bill is completely wrong for many reasons, but here’s a brief list:

  • just because politicians don’t have to have any qualifications and can be replaced overnight they seem to think all professions are the same. They’re wrong;
  • politicians are in the unique position of not having to strike for fair pay or conditions, so they have no knowledge of feeling undervalued and underpaid – and another reason they don’t strike is because nobody would miss them;
  • if you use agency staff to break a strike, I doubt they will be made welcome by the permanent staff when the strike is over;
  • it is a human right to withhold your labour if you feel you have been unfairly treated or your rights are being ignored – what else is there? It is always a last resort;
  • plus, if the job that we do is so important that lives would be put at risk if we went on strike, then pay us what we are worth,
  • without trade unions, the workers of this country would be plunged back to Victorian times with no rights. Perhaps that’s why they don’t teach children about the trade union movement in schools anymore.

I feel as though I’ve gone on a bit, but I feel so strongly about this – and we all really need to stick together.