UNISON members working for Care UK are marching through Doncaster today at 2pm after 30 days of strike action against Bridgepoint Capital, the private equity investor that bought the company in 2010.
Care UK was handed a contract by Doncaster Council in 2013 to take over care of vulnerable people with severe learning difficulties, and has since announced that it wants to slash staff pay and conditions. Unison has tried to negotiate with Care UK, which is refusing to change its position.
A ballot of 150 Unison members saw 90% voting for action and members have already taken several periods of sustained strike action, as well as action short of a strike.
Dave Prentis joined Care UK workers on the picket line in Doncaster last Tuesday morning, as they took a 23rd day of strike action in defence of their pay and conditions.
Prentis said: ‘Many of our members will simply not be able to pay their bills and some would lose their homes. They have shown courage and self-sacrifice to take this action because it is not just the threatened cuts they are fighting against.
‘They are also fighting to preserve a service to some of the most vulnerable people in society and I want to show our admiration and solidarity for a brave and principled group of people.’
Last Wednesday 53 angry members made their case outside the headquarters of Bridgepoint Capital in ruling class Mayfair.
Unison regional organiser Jim Bell said that Bridgepoint Capital eventually allowed himself and a member into the building to make their case briefly.
The members were also determined to use their visit to take their case right to the heart of government at Downing Street.
The strikers’ demonstration in Doncaster today, will begin at the Civic Square, Waterdale, from 2pm, with speakers from Unison, together with other unions and campaigners.
Meanwhile the GMB is to have a national strike ballot in June for strike action at local councils and schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland on July10.
The GMB is moving to a strike ballot after after a pay offer of just over 1% was overwhelmingly rejected in a consultative ballot.
Members were asked to either to accept the offer or to reject it and support moving to an official ballot for industrial action. 83% voted for the second option.
Brian Strutton, GMB National Secretary for Public Services, said: ‘GMB members in councils and schools have spoken loud and clear: they do not want another low pay offer and they are prepared to do something about it.
‘Members have asked the union to instigate an official strike ballot which the GMB Executive has today approved.
‘Faced with years of pay freezes, low pay, cuts and job losses they are saying enough is enough.’
The GMB is also concerned that services in Doncaster will be cut including residential care homes and day centres for all elderly, vulnerable and disabled service users.
Bob McNeill GMB Regional Officer said: ‘Jo Miller, the Chief Executive of Doncaster Council has recently confirmed on television the intention to make 1,200 staff redundant as part of a total of £109 million of savings required over the next three years.
‘The GMB is concerned that this will close services for the residents and tax payers in Doncaster, including residential care homes and day centres for all elderly, vulnerable and disabled service users.
‘What was not mentioned however was the £45 million spent over the last three years on consultants, senior managers and agency staff. This is while front line services have been cut and employees of the council had their terms and conditions cut through job restructures.
‘With 1,200 more jobs to go, the remaining staff will be placed under huge amounts of stress to pick up the extra work created by fewer staff doing the same essential roles within the Council.
‘The GMB believes that Doncaster Council needs to be brought publicly to account for this money, and would like to point out that direct employment of staff would save a vast quantity of money, with a knock-on effect of saving jobs and therefore services throughout Doncaster.
‘We say yes to jobs and services for the people of Doncaster and no to cuts and privatisation.’