Rochdale care workers dig in

Paul Gerrard

“I’m on less money than I was 15 years ago. It’s very difficult… you worry about whether you’re going to lose your home.” Striking care worker Karen Shatwell, explained on TV why she was on strike against cuts in wages and conditions imposed by Future Directions in Rochdale. Her wages have been slashed by nearly £500 a month.

Faced with up to 30% wage cuts Future Directions staff have already had 20 strike days since the dispute started in May. Now Unison has authorised a further ten days of action.

This is unprecedented backing for the 110 workers involved, and shows how important it is that they win. As well as the strike action Unison is pursuing employment tribunals for all the staff. If successful they will probably bankrupt the company.

The workers have had several lively and popular rallies in the town, but the real enemy is the Calderstones NHS Trust 20 miles away because – believe it or not – it owns Future Directions. So on the first day of their latest bout of strike action Unison members took the battle to Calderstones and held a noisy protest outside the annual members’ meeting of the Trust. Sheepish men in suits winced as they had to walk past the demo on the way from their, no doubt, copious lunch to the AGM.

Paula Braynion is Calderstones Director of Operations and Nursing as well as being Managing Director of Future Directions. She recently received an ‘undisclosed’ pay rise ‘in view of her extra duties’!

All the directors are still on their NHS salaries, all the while trying to pick up social care contracts across the North West in a strategy which John Morrison, Unison steward, describes as “expansion through exploitation”.

He added: “We’re still striking, still fighting. 98% of us have elected to carry on the dispute, and we will continue till they negotiate – or we’ll see them in court”.

Messages of support to John at [email protected]

Donations to Helen Harrison of Rochdale Unison, 46 Richard Street, Rochdale, OL11 1DU

These workers are suffering massive attacks on their living standards because a quasi private company, Future Directions – which is actually owned by an NHS trust – has won a bid to provide social care for people with disabilities. This service was once provided by Rochdale council. The company previously operating the contract pulled out, declaring it could not provide the service without making cuts.

Being at the mercy of a network of increasingly cost-cutting organisations is the future for health and other public service workers unless these public sector vandals are stopped in their tracks.