Chester solidarity with Doncaster Care UK workers

When West Cheshire Trades Council members heard that managers from Care UK in Chester were travelling to Doncaster to strike break during the Doncaster Care UK dispute, they decided to act.

They organised a protest outside the Chester Care UK Offices, which are on a main commuter road into Chester city centre.

Placards were produced and a leaflet explaining the basis of the Doncaster dispute – and the scandal of low pay in the care sector. There was excellent support from passing drivers and pedestrians. And two local newspapers covered the protest.

West Cheshire TUC chair, Kenny Cunningham, told them: “We are here in solidarity with Doncaster care workers. We want companies like Care UK to know that when they mistreat their employees they take on the entire trade union movement.

“People are waking up to the reality that low pay, as well as being a prison for those trapped in it, corrodes the very basis of our society. It is a key mechanism of the Coalition’s transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich.”

Care UK is one of a number of companies contracted by Cheshire West and Chester council to provide home care services, that used to be provided by the council.

Homecare staff in West Cheshire had their clients removed over a period of years so that the council could hand the work to the lower paying private and voluntary sector, without having to transfer staff on protected terms and conditions. This process has driven down pay rates in the care sector – with many staff paid below the Living Wage.

Worse still they are required to be totally flexible, travelling to many clients at their own expense, receiving minimal mileage payments between care visits, and left unpaid for “down-time” between client visits. Often staff have to be available to work from 7am to 11pm, but may only be paid for five or six hours’ work during that time.

Ray McHale, West Cheshire TUC publicity officer