Support Birmingham’s homecare workers

Before Labour councillors privatise the service completely.

Proletarian writers

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Proletarian writers

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Homecare workers across Birmingham are on strike because of the disgraceful behaviour of local Labour councillors, who are determined to run the service at an absolute minimum level, in what many workers suspect is part of a plan to privatise it entirely.

Unison, the union representing the workers, has 286 members in dispute with the council over attempts to force them into an outrageous split shift system. Council bosses planned to get workers to start the day at 7.00am and finish at 10.00pm, getting around legislation protecting workers’ health by inserting a number of breaks throughout the day.

Of course this still meant a 15-hour day for workers, and the breaks were merely time many would spend on city buses getting to their next job or home for a quick cup of tea.

Labour hypocrites promised to consider a rota designed by workers, but only because the local elections were imminent. As soon as the elections were over, the workers were betrayed.

Our comrades in Birmingham have warned council workers repeatedly not to trust Labour councillors, but the trade unions are packed with full-time officials who are also Labour party members, who choose to sell the workers out at every opportunity so as to help Labour win elections.

The tactical mistake to take Labour at their word in April has cost homecare workers dearly, according to Unison.

“Management issued a new business case to make all the staff, 60 percent of whom are full-time or work over 30 hours, redundant or impose on them a contract for 22.75, 21 or 14 hours. They will be asked to work 7 days out of 14, working opposite days each week.

“Fourteen-hour contracts will be 7.00-11.00am. Twenty-one-hour contracts 4.00-10.00pm and 22.75-hour contract 7.00-11.00am and 12.00-2.30pm. This will make it almost impossible to get a second job, which, due to low pay, many rely on to make ends meet.”

What’s the lesson? The lesson has to be: don’t trust local Labour councillors when you’re negotiating for the future of your jobs; they are just as underhand as the Tories.

When the striking care workers held a rally on 15 September, they found themselves being addressed by Unison West Midlands regional secretary Ravi Subramanian. He told workers that he had had a meeting with Labour council leader Ian Ward, who assured him that the dispute would be resolved in line with “Labour values”.

If those are the same ‘values’ that shafted the same workers earlier this year (after Labour once more secured a majority on the council after the local election) and which introduced an extra 50 working days a year for binmen last year, then Unison strikers need to be wary.

The Labour party in the trade unions is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.