Service users won’t lose out over Doncaster strike

Plans to deliver a safe, high quality service to around 140 people with learning disabilities swung into action this week to ensure that their lives are not disrupted by the industrial action called by Unison.
Top table at a rally of unison members about the Care UK strike. Picture: Andrew RoeTop table at a rally of unison members about the Care UK strike. Picture: Andrew Roe
Top table at a rally of unison members about the Care UK strike. Picture: Andrew Roe

Care UK, which runs the service, has spent the last few days putting in place contingency measures which will ensure that it is ‘business as normal’ in the 40 homes around the borough where people are supported to live a fulfilled life in a community setting.

Over a hundred team members in the service who aren’t Unison members have been joined by managers and fully trained, experienced support workers from elsewhere in the country to keep the service going.

Director of Care UK’s learning disability service, Chris Hindle, said: “Naturally, my team is doing its very best to ensure this strike doesn’t disrupt the lives of over a hundred of Doncaster’s vulnerable residents. We are all committed to work round the clock to deliver a good quality, safe service just as we did during the first strike.”

Speaking about the strike, Chris said: “We think our proposal which protects jobs, people’s basic pay, keeps their membership of the valuable NHS pensions scheme and protects current salaries for a period of over 14 months, is a fair way of delivering change at a time when public sector funded services are facing a genuine struggle to meet a growing demand with tighter and tighter budgets. Whichever provider was chosen to deliver this service would have to reduce spend as well as finding ways of improving it for the people it supports.”

The suggestion that any individual might see a 50 per cent reduction in their salary is wholly inaccurate, the basic pay of all employees within the service is being fully protected and all colleagues who transferred to Care UK will continue to be members of the valuable NHS final salary pension scheme. No employee who transferred into the service has been made redundant. Under the proposals, which Unison has rejected, Care UK is proposing to review the rates and opportunities for things like working evenings or weekends, bringing sick pay and paid annual holiday which, for some people, is currently close to seven weeks on top of public holidays, into line with what is more normal for this sector.

Care UK has also offered to extend the transition payment which is equal to full salary protection from 12 months to 14 months to help employees adjust to the new arrangements but this offer was rejected out of hand by Unison negotiators.

Chris Hindle concluded: “We remain committed to finding a positive resolution to this matter and we have arranged more than 10 meetings with the trade union over the last four months. During these meetings we have made a series of improvements to our offer, but Unison has rejected all our proposals. We have also proactively arranged further meetings with the trade union over the next two weeks, and believe genuine engagement at these meetings would be more productive than the union taking yet more strike action.”

Unison representative Jim Bell said: “We had a meeting brought about by ACAS and heard that the company had made marginal improvements on the transitional payments from 12 to 14 months, but there has been no movement on holidays or sick pay.

“We spent a day with ACAS and that offer was unanimously rejected.

“Members are 100 per cent committed to defending their terms.”

A seven strike was originally held after union members, who care for some of the most vulnerable people in society, voted overwhelmingly for the action over management threats to slash their wages by up to 50 per cent.

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