Staff at a Bristol-based care provider have voted to strike over proposed ‘fire and rehire’ plans that a union has described as ‘short-sighted and cruel’.
More than 100 workers, registered nurses and residential home staff at St Monica Trust, which opeates a number of residential homes across Bristol and North Somerset, have voted for industrial action after they said they were asked to agree to a reduction in wages or face dismissal.
St Monica Trust has denied it planned to “fire and rehire” staff and wanted to work with employees to find the best way forward.
Union Unison claimed the care provider had targeted the “heftiest” cuts at the longest-serving and most experienced employees. It said the proposed changes were pushing workers to consider moving to another care provider, or leaving the sector alltogether, against a backdrop of a national shortage of social care workers.
Weekend pay rates for senior care workers are expected to be cut by 21%, while other care staff expect to see a 10% salary reduction, Unison claimed. It estimated that the average worker would see their pay slashed by £400 per month.
Fire and rehire
Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: “It’s ludicrous that St Monica Trust is driving out experienced staff when the UK is in the grip of a care staffing crisis.
“Some workers have been with the trust for decades. To threaten them with the sack if they don’t agree to these savage cuts is both short-sighted and cruel. Managers’ claims that some staff will receive a wage increase under the plans pits colleague against colleague, worsening an already toxic environment. All staff deserve to be paid fairly.
“Across the care sector, employees are leaving for better-paid, lower-stress jobs in retail and hospitality. It’s not hard to see why when they’re treated so shabbily. The trust must reverse its decision now.”
McAnea also called on the government to make good on its promise to clamp down on fire and rehire tactics.
In a statement, St Monica Trust said it had been subjected to “a campaign of misinformation” regarding its proposed restructure. It said it would fulfil its commitment to be a ‘real’ Living Wage employer and offer a benefits package that exceeded industry standards.
“To be clear, our intention is not to ‘fire and rehire’, but to reach agreement with our care home colleagues on the best way forward,” the trust said.
“Consultations between the Trust and our care home colleagues regarding the proposed changes are ongoing and, from listening to our teams, we have amended the initial proposal to include a form of pay protection.”
Separately, Unison has claimed that health and care workers at employers across the UK have been calling in sick because they cannot afford fuel to get to work.
“[Petrol price rises are] having a big impact on people with jobs that mean they have to travel. So community health workers, health visitors, care workers, social workers … are saying they just cannot afford to do their jobs any more,” McAnea told The Guardian.
“We’re actually hearing of people who would rather phone in sick because they don’t have the money to fill up their cars and do their jobs. And more and more people are leaving public services, even in local government. There’s huge vacancies across local government.”
Tuesday saw the fastest rise in petrol prices for 17 years, with the cost of filling a typical family car passing £100 for the first time. According to the RAC, the average price of petrol was 183.16p a litre and diesel 188.82p on Thursday.