Overwhelming support for Sirona care workers strike over pay cuts

More than 100 care workers are set to strike against Sirona’s plan for pay cuts after UNISON’s ballot today showed overwhelming (95%) support for action.

The staff, working in care homes in Bath, Keynsham and Midsomer Norton, are opposing management plans that would mean choosing between working longer hours for the same pay or seeing their wages fall.

Faced with resistance  from care workers organised in public service union UNISON, Sirona issued notice that it would force staff onto new contracts by dismissing them en masse. But the care company now faces strike action from workers determined not to accept a pay cut.

Management are extending working hours as an “unpaid break” of thirty minutes per shift. But in most cases these breaks will not be factored into existing shifts. Instead staff will build up a backlog of time owed, meaning they have to work a extra shifts effectively for free, or see the equivalent money deducted from their wages.

B&NES council cut Sirona’s funding by £215k in 2017 leaving the care company with a budget problem. But care staff are adamant that the new shift patterns won’t work. Many staff work extra hours or a second job to make ends meet, or have caring responsibilities of their own, which the extra shifts would obstruct.

UNISON is holding a rally of Sirona care staff and supporters outside the Guildhall tonight.

UNISON organiser in B&NES John Drake said

“These care workers do so much to improve the lives of older and vulnerable people. Yet they’re paid not much more than minimum wage for it. It can’t be right that Sirona are forcing a pay cut on them. This Sirona care workers strike is a last resort but in this situation what choice do they have other than to stick together and stand up for themselves?”

“Staff are telling us that Sirona is already struggling to recruit because terms and conditions are bad. Another step towards bargain basement jobs will make it worse. This vote for strike action is a sign care workers won’t accept an overstretched and under-funded care system.

“Ultimately the buck stops with B&NES council bosses who could solve this with a small amount of extra money. The council needs to face the facts – you can’t run a care service on a shoestring. B&NES has millions in extra care funding that should form part of a rescue package to avert the need the Sirona care workers strike and make sure older people get the service they deserve.”

Further information
  • UNISON’s rally will run from 16:30 to 17:15
  • Due to restrictive trade union laws the first possible date for Sirona care workers strike action would be 5 June 2018
  • Around 170 staff in total are affected by the contract changes.

We would suggest B&NES council look at extra funding from the following sources:

  • £3.9m raised by a planned 3% social care precept on council tax in 2018/19 (with another 1% planned in 2019/2020)
  • £733,000, unallocated from the 2017/18 adult social care support grant
  • The Better Care Fund and improved Better Care Fund, the latter of which amounts to £3.428m (2017/18); £2.063m (2018/19); and £1.028m (2019/20)
  • £1.5m in the revenue budget contingency reserve for 2018/19 (up from £1m)
  • £12.2m in the general reserve, which is £300,000 above the lower threshold amount