Sirona strikers joined by Dave Prentis as five day action begins

Care workers employed by Sirona began five further days of strike action this morning (Friday) against proposed cuts to their pay.

Some of the 170 staff affected joined UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis for a rally outside the Guildhall last night to try to persuade Bath and North East Somerset Council to increase the funding it gives Sirona.

Following councillors’ decision to cut Sirona’s budget by £215,000 last year, the company says it now has no choice but to dismiss the care staff. It plans to re-employ them on new contracts, which include unpaid breaks of 30 minutes per shift.

This means staff working in the Sirona-run care homes in Bath, Keynsham and Midsomer Norton face either accepting a pay cut, or losing their jobs.

In most cases, these enforced breaks will not form part of existing shifts. Instead staff will accrue a half an hour ‘debt’ per shift, which they would then have to work for free at a later date, says UNISON.

Many staff work extra hours, have second jobs, or caring responsibilities, which would make it impossible for them to work these unpaid shifts, says UNISON.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Care workers should be able to focus on delivering compassionate care, and shouldn’t have to worry about losing money or indeed their jobs.

“These dedicated members of staff hate the thought of disrupting the care they give to elderly and vulnerable people, but they shouldn’t be the ones to pay the price for the council’s care cuts.

“Councillors need to face the facts – it’s not possible to run care on a shoestring, and if care workers are forced to take this pay cut, many will have to look for other jobs, putting the very running of Sirona’s homes in jeopardy.”

UNISON South West regional organiser John Drake said: “These care workers work tirelessly to improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in the community. They are already on a low wage, yet Sirona is forcing them to accept a pay cut.

“Going on strike is a last resort but Sirona and the Council have left them with no choice. After months of talks, the company is now refusing to explore other options that would prevent this pay cut.

“But ultimately the buck stops with the Council, which could solve this problem by finding extra funding. Councillors have it within their gift to bring an end to this nightmare.”