Birmingham care workers resist callous cuts
HOME CARE STAFF in Britain’s second largest city are mounting a determined stand against vicious cuts to their hours and pay by Birmingham’s Labour-controlled council. The home carers, more than 95% of them women and largely Unison members, have already staged 17 walkouts since this January. They are now preparing for a further 15 days of action between mid-September and mid-October.
The strikes and protests by workers in the city’s home enablement service have come in response to the council’s further plans to slash hours, force the remaining staff on to part-time contracts of 14 to 23 hours a week and outsource still more provision to private companies. The latest attacks come on top of large-scale cuts in the previous financial year. In the words of Mandy Buckley, a care worker and Unison convenor, “The strike is also about keeping a free, directly provided service to vulnerable citizens and resisting privatisation.”
Under the council’s plans, Mandy stands to lose the equivalent of 44 hours of paid work a month, meaning that she would lose her eligibility for tax credits as well as seeing her annual earnings slashed in half. Birmingham’s Labour leadership is committed to slashing more than £2 million from the home care budget. While the council might well have blamed funding cuts dictated by Tory central government, it has actually promoted the line that the cuts are creating a more ‘efficient’ service with the relevant cabinet member, cllr Paulette Hamilton, even suggesting that a better service for residents would emerge.
Presumably this represents a desperate attempt to justify spending millions on consultants to ‘redesign’ the city’s home care services. Though long regarded as a bastion of right wing Labourism, Birmingham’s city council had been relatively slow to pursue an agenda of wholesale privatisation. It has, however, in the past 18 months provoked both the home carers’ dispute and a prolonged strike by bin workers, which ended in a significant climbdown by the council and the resignation of cllr John Clancy as leader. To achieve a similar victory and fend off the current attacks, these low-paid women need and certainly warrant the support of the wider labour movement in Birmingham and beyond in a key battle about the future of social care provision.
Please send messages of support to firstname.lastname@example.org Make cheques payable to Birmingham Unison, marked ‘hardship fund’ on the back and send to: Unison Birmingham, 19th Floor, The Maclaren Building, 46 Priory Queensway, Birmingham, B4 7LR.