Over 650 UNISON members employed by the Alternative Futures Group (AFG) began seven days of strike action on Tuesday over cuts to their income.
AFG has cut back care support workers’ pay for sleep-in shifts. This will cost some staff as much as £2,000 per year. The care support workers are only paid at the level of the minimum wage for their regular hours and many are now struggling to stay in the care sector due to not being paid adequately at night.
Care support workers used to be paid for every hour they were at work.
But now bosses want to pay workers a flat rate of £40-50 for an overnight shift—less than the minimum wage.
UNISON North West regional convenor Paula Barker said: “AFG staff and council commissioners are furious that AFG senior managers have refused to negotiate to resolve the dispute.
“AFG’s pay cuts are jeopardising the future provision of care services for vulnerable people, as experienced and skilled care staff are being driven out of the sector.
“AFG’s senior management have been entrusted with providing a very important public service, but their actions are both unjust and reckless.
“AFG need to get back round the table and enter into serious talks to get this matter resolved.”
Pat Harrington, general secretary of Solidarity union, commented: "Solidarity has many members working in the care sector and cuts in sleep-in pay for workers already on a low-wage have been a source of many problems. We need to change our approach as a society to how we provide and value care. At present workers in the care sector are being mistreated."
AFG claims it can’t afford to pay workers any more as local authority cuts mean their funding is dropping.
The firm receives funding from 15 public authority commissioners across the north west of England.
Thirteen of these commissioners pay AFG more than the £73.89 per shift that would cover the minimum wage.
Instead of paying frontline staff, AFG is funnelling cash into the pockets of senior management.
Its executive pay policy cost it £221,000 more this year than if it had matched the industry average.
Paula Barker, Unison regional convener, said, “AFG is taking an enormous cut out of the public money that is intended for the pay packets of low wage care staff.
“The company has the wrong priorities and it should instead be investing in its front-line care staff and in the service.
“It can’t raid this money for executive pay and overheads and then say that it can’t pay care workers the minimum wage because its other income is ring-fenced,” she said.
A public rally will take place on Friday 10 May at 12 noon at St George’s Hall steps in Liverpool. It will be addressed by UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis, striking care workers, local MPs and Ms Barker.
Not in a union? You can join Solidarity union here: http://www.solidaritytradeunion.org/join-us-now.html