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Wednesday 23 April 2014

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Nationwide day of action in support of striking Care UK workers

Doncaster Care UK workers

Doncaster Care UK workers   (Click to enlarge)

Anti-cuts candidates standing in the local elections in May are protesting outside Care UK offices in support of striking workers in Doncaster on Thursday. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) will be lobbying Ed Miliband's office in Doncaster as well as holding solidarity protests across the country.

Nurses and care workers at Care UK in Doncaster have taken 20 days of strike action against proposed 35% pay cuts. Care UK took over the service last year, which was previously run by the NHS, and has now torn up the TUPE transfer agreement. Workers are facing pay cuts of £300-£700 a month as well as cuts in holiday and sickness entitlements and enhanced payments for unsociable hours. New staff are being employed on £6.50 an hour.

The workers, members of the trade union Unison, have voted unanimously for a further two week strike next month.

Ed Miliband, Labour Party leader and a Doncaster MP, has given no support to the striking workers. This is despite the Labour Party's promise to tackle the 'cost of living crisis' being faced by people like the Care UK workers. The lobby outside his office in Doncaster will demand that he backs the strike. Similar protests by TUSC supporters outside Care UK offices will build nationwide support for the strike.

TUSC was co-founded by the late Bob Crow when he was general secretary of the RMT transport union and involves socialist organisations and other prominent trade unionists. Some of the workers at Care UK have decided to stand under its banner in the council elections in May as part of nearly 600 candidates in England. This marks the biggest left of Labour challenge for 60 years.

The details of the protests on Thursday 24th April are:

  • Doncaster: 3.30pm, Bentley Library, Chapel Street, Bentley, Doncaster, DN5 0DE
  • South London: 3.30pm, 56-58 Crowne House, SE1 1UN
  • West London: 3.30pm, Unit 4, First Floor, Albion Court, Galena Road, W6 0QT
  • Southampton: 12.30pm, Ground Floor, West Point House, 321 Millbrook Road West, SO15 0HU
  • Leeds: 1pm, Unit 5, Hepton Court, A64 York Road, LS9 6PW
  • Cardiff: 2pm, 33-35 Cathedral Road, Cardiff, CF11 9HB

Care UK striker and shop steward Kirstine Carbutt said in a speech during the last strike:

"At our strikers' rally we heard from a member who had been for their consultation meeting with Care UK regarding the transition payment and transfer over to new terms and conditions. At this meeting she was told to budget!

"This from a company whose idea of budgeting is to tender for a contract they knew they couldn't afford to fulfill at its current rates. They had no intention of budgeting. They knew exactly how they would make the numbers fit.

"Well I for one am sick of going to work to struggle and budget. It's our service users who will suffer.

"We have all watched as our dispute has grown and are now beginning to understand that this is part of a bigger picture about privatisation of the NHS. To other people who work in the NHS, you need to stand together with us because sooner than you think, you'll be wondering whether you should put petrol ion your car or buy food, because you've got to learn to budget!"

Care UK is one of the biggest private health corporations in Britain. It operates NHS treatment centres, walk-in centres, care homes and home care services for the elderly and people with disabilities. It is owned by a private equity company called Bridgepoint Capital who faces allegations of tax avoidance by operating loans through the Channel Islands stock exchange.

Care UK founder and chairman Mike Nash has had a 60% pay increase and now earns £800,000. He has donated to the Tory Party. Now Care UK is directly benefiting from cuts and privatisation as more and more council and NHS services are outsourced to the private sector that cut costs by reducing staff, pay and levels of care.