Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/480/2221
Stop council's sell-off plans
THREE UNIONS, UNISON, GMB and T&G are currently campaigning against Carmarthenshire county council's plans to privatise the in-house home carer's service. There is ample evidence that the local authority is downsizing and downgrading the service to prepare for further privatisation.
Mark Evans, Carmarthen county UNISON assistant branch secretary - personal capacity
In a relatively short time the number of home carers employed has dropped from about 530 to approximately 390. Management's intentions are crystal clear to home carers, their unions and service users. Staff are moved around and their rotas changed at the drop of a hat to try to demoralise staff and to create a demand for private companies.
Three demonstrations have been called in Ammanford, Llanelli and Carmarthen to oppose the local authority's plans. Home carers have been campaigning on the streets of ex-mining town Ammanford - building for the demonstration on Friday 30 March (meeting Ammanford Town Hall at 12.30pm).
Marilyn Williams and Jean Williams (employed as home carers for 26 years and 23 years respectively) told me they were both happy with the response in Ammanford and neither could recall anyone voicing support for privatisation. Both hoped for a good turnout for the demo.
They told me they opposed privatisation both because their jobs were at risk and because they believed that private companies would provide an inferior service for vulnerable service users. Staff working for private companies will tend to be less well-trained; to be paid less and have less experience.
Service users will lose continuity of care. As profit drives private companies, staff will have less time to spend with service users. Both Jean and Marilyn are concerned about infection control. They had seen staff working for private companies, turning up at service users' homes without protective clothing such as gloves. When they had gloves, staff often did not know about hygiene procedures.
Jean and Marilyn thought the public opposed the local authority's plans. However, both thought that public opinion would not stop the council, who are being encouraged by the New Labour-led Welsh Assembly to outsource and privatise services. They, like many home carers, had reluctantly come to the conclusion that if the council was to be stopped then a ballot for industrial action would be necessary.
Full-time officers for both UNISON and the GMB say we could lose public sympathy if industrial action is taken. Both Jean and Marilyn said that service users will understand and support home carers if they are forced to take industrial action by the employer's intransigence.
Three meetings have been convened to discuss the way forward. Many home carers will demand that they be balloted on taking industrial action. The demonstrations should be the start not the end of the campaign.
In The Socialist 29 March 2007:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
What we think
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party election campaign
Socialist Party feature
Northern Ireland agreement
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news