‘This wouldn’t hap­pen to men’ Home carer in long-run­ning dis­pute with ‘Scrooge’ coun­cil over new shifts hits out at her treat­ment

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Tom Dare Lo­cal Democ­racy Re­porter Mandy Buck­ley

IT was a hu­mor­ous Christ­mas card with a mes­sage de­liv­ered to Birm­ing­ham City Coun­cil House... de­pict­ing leader of the coun­cil Ian Ward as miserly old Ebe­neezer Scrooge.

The card was de­liv­ered by Uni­son mem­bers rep­re­sent­ing the Birm­ing­ham home care work­ers, with plac­ards held aloft and one rep­re­sen­ta­tive even dress­ing as Santa for the visit.

For 19 months now Uni­son and the en­able­ment care work­ers have been locked in a dis­pute with the coun­cil, with sev­eral days of strike ac­tion called over the coun­cil’s at­tempts to cut the num­ber of hours each em­ployee can work, as well as mak­ing al­ter­ations to shift pat­terns.

And, away from the satir­i­cal Christ­mas cards, there’s a far more se­ri­ous side to the story.

Mandy Buck­ley is a se­nior ste­ward for Uni­son, and has been a home care worker for the past 16 years.

Home car­ers work for the coun­cil’s en­able­ment ser­vice, which of­fers six weeks of sup­port to peo­ple dis­charged from hos­pi­tal who can­not sup­port them­selves.

Un­der coun­cil pro­pos­als the work­ers are set to see their hours slashed, with the max­i­mum cur­rently avail­able to each em­ployee just 27 hours a week.

There are also con­tracts of­fers of 22 or 16 hours per week, but a change to shift pat­terns means that many can not work the hours be­ing of­fered.

Ms Buck­ley says that if the pro­pos­als go ahead as planned, many of the 218 home care work­ers will not be able to pay their mort­gages or get by.

The vast ma­jor­ity of the home care work­force con­sists of women.

“It’s been a hard jour­ney to go through,” says Ms Buck­ley.

“We had staff con­sul­ta­tions last year, one to ones, and they kept say­ing to staff ‘are you able to do the ser­vice, are you able to do the shifts, is this job for you?’

“And with that many staff de­cided to take vol­un­tary redundancies. So 48 per cent of the ser­vice has gone al­ready. They only want 88 peo­ple work­ing the top hours, then they’re look­ing at 60 for the 23 hour con­tracts and 45 on 16 hours. There are 134 staff that are work­ing 30 hours or more.

“So if there’s only 88 at the top end hours then there’s got to be some full time staff that go down to 23 hours, which is just evenings, 3 til 10. And then the rest of the staff would be down to 16 hours. So it’s a mas­sive drop.

“I’m cur­rently on 25 hours, and could be look­ing at 16 hours a week, and I couldn’t man­age.

“You’re look­ing at los­ing nine hours a week, and over a month that’s a lot, that’s a week and a half ’s wages that I’d lose.

“That would mean me not be­ing able to pay off my mort­gage, not be­ing able to pay for my gas and elec­tric, not be­ing able to get de­cent shop­ping in, to live on. I’ve got a son of 14, and it means him not be­ing able to have his uni­form. It’s go­ing to have a mas­sive im­pact on my life.”

She added: “We un­der­stand that the coun­cil has to make cuts, we un­der­stand that they want ef­fi­ciency.

“We have said that we’ll work any rota to give ef­fi­ciency as long as we get our hours to live on. Be­cause we want to keep this ser­vice and we want to make it as ef­fi­cient as pos­si­ble.

“None of us wanted to strike. We didn’t think in a mil­lion years that it would go on this long. “This wouldn’t hap­pen to men” Ms Buck­ley be­lieves that the coun­cil do not fully ap­pre­ci­ate the po­si­tion the home care work­ers find them­selves in, with many of the 218 strong work force de­pend­ing on their wage to get by.

In re­sponse, Birm­ing­ham City Coun­cil said: “The cur­rent BCC En­able­ment ser­vice was iden­ti­fied as poor per­form­ing by the CQC and is poor com­pared to other au­thor­i­ties.

“We want to im­prove the ser­vice to im­prove the qual­ity of life for ci­ti­zens.

“The aim is to re­duce the amount of time wasted in the ser­vice when staff are em­ployed but ci­ti­zens don’t need a ser­vice, and to in­crease the hours when ci­ti­zens do need the ser­vice so we can sup­port ci­ti­zens to leave hos­pi­tal. Cur­rently our ci­ti­zens don’t re­ceive the ser­vice they need and de­serve be­cause of the sys­tem we have.

“We have ded­i­cated con­sid­er­able time to meet­ing with trades unions in the last 18 months to find a com­mon way for­ward to mod­ernising the ser­vice, try­ing to find mid­dle ground that bal­ances the needs of ci­ti­zens and needs of staff, and of­fer­ing al­ter­na­tive pro­pos­als fol­low­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions.”

The coun­cil also said that cur­rent ar­range­ments mean that only 20 per cent of users leave care en­abled, whereas the new sys­tem should raise that fig­ure to 80 per cent.

It’s go­ing to have a mas­sive im­pact on my life Mandy Buck­ley

> The car­ers’ mes­sage for the coun­cil leader Ian Ward

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