The South West TUC is supporting care workers at Sirona Care who have been told by management to accept a thirty minute ‘unpaid break’ into most shifts. Care workers would then either lose half an hour’s pay per shift, or see these unpaid breaks stack up over time. Workers would have to work shifts for free in effect, in order to ‘pay back’ their breaks. Most of the workers earn just above the minimum wage and can’t afford to take a further financial hit.
The social enterprise has been put in a difficult situation by Bath and North East Somerset council that has cut the amount of money it pays Sirona by £215,000 per year. UNISON believes management have handled the situation badly, failing to provide information to care workers in a timely fashion and putting undue pressure on them to sign the new contracts before they have the full facts.
Sirona Care is a publicly funded social enterprise with hundreds of staff working across South Gloucestershire, parts of Bristol and Bath and North East Somerset. Like increasing numbers of care providers it struggles to recruit care workers. Its web site declares: “we want to recruit committed, talented, passionate people”.
The Care Quality Commission inspectors recently described the care provided by the Sirona carers: “Nothing was viewed as too much trouble by staff when trying to support the hopes and wishes of patients and families. Staff were often described as going the extra mile and the care people received exceeded their expectations.”
The people expected to make up the shortfall are low paid care workers. Taking strike action is always a last resort but for care workers it is especially difficult. The UNISON members have taken short periods of strike action to limit the impact on clients but pressure management to resolve the dispute.
Low paid carers cannot afford to strikeout feel they must take action. Donations to the ‘SIRONA HARDSHIP’ fund:
UNISON South West Regional Fund
Account number is 49021079 / 60-83-01