Why are we striking?
The proposed changes to terms and conditions of care home staff are threatening many members with thousands of pounds of cuts to their pay, reduction of sick pay for all staff, making housekeeping and catering staff do jobs they never signed up to, telling night staff they would have to take an extra half hour unpaid, reducing contractual hours, and cutting the amount of time staff can spend doing little extras for residents during handover.
We have tried to engage the employer on these issues over several months and are ready to offer solutions to the problems they say they’re trying to solve. Management have refused to even discuss these solutions and so have left members with no choice but to take action.
What times will the strikes take place?
To begin with the strikes will take place in line with the early shift start of 7.30am. They will run for periods of 24 or 48 hours. We may choose to run different lengths and times of strike action as necessary, but this will be communicated to all along with any dates.
As an example: a 24hr strike which starts on a Monday then the previous night (Sunday) shift would end, and the Monday early shift would be the first ones on strike. The strike would continue throughout the day with both late and night shifts also striking. It would end at the beginning of the next day’s (Tuesday) early shift.
I’m a night worker, should I be striking too?
Yes, if you’re due to be on shift on the day of a strike then you should not go in to work. Although there are unlikely to be picket lines during night shifts, you’re encouraged to join them during the daytime if possible.
Is striking legal?
Although there is no positive legal right to strike in the UK, strike action organised by a trade union is legal provided some tough conditions are met. We’ve had a ballot and secured a legal mandate to strike over the changes with an 84% vote in favour of striking and the legal requirement of a turnout more than 50%.
Do I have to go on strike?
As a member of a democratic union, we would hope that you would participate in a strike because there has been a vote for strike action. You cannot be forced to do so, but it is part of belonging to a democratic union in which decisions are made collectively. We recognise that taking strike action is very serious, which is why UNISON asks you and every other member to observe the strike. Every member who does not undermines our bargaining power and makes it harder for us to protect all our members.
For non-members it’s important that they also understand that their interests are more aligned with their colleagues than their bosses. These changes will affect all staff and even if you’re seemingly immediately better off from them, your fellow workers aren’t and you’re still losing out on things like sick pay too. It might feel ok for you now but if the company feels they can get away with removing rights like this now then it might be yours they come for in the future. All workers should stand together and demand better for everyone.
I’ve already agreed to the new terms; can I still go on strike?
Yes. Many members have already reached out to say that they signed due to the employer’s pressure and fear for their job but that they are unhappy about the new terms. Some don’t mind the terms for them or have been offered new job roles, but still want to strike for better terms for their workmates who are losing out. Whatever your reason, you can still strike as you are still affected by the dispute.
If I’ve already accepted the new terms, why should I strike? I can’t gain anything
UNISON understands there’s a multitude of reasons some of you might have already accepted the new terms. We want consistency in the contracts so that all staff are treated and paid fairly. This is why we will be negotiating to improve everyone’s terms regardless of if they’ve signed or not.
Do I have to tell my manager that I’ll be on strike?
No: you have no legal obligation to inform your manager or employer that you will take strike action in advance. If you do, they have notice to try and find cover for you which defeats the object of strike action – we want to show the effect of staff not being in work and demonstrate to the company your value to them.
You may need to log after the strike day that you took strike action, so it is recorded properly on your timesheet.
Won’t I be fired if I go on strike?
Almost all effective industrial action is a breach of your contract of employment. However, UNISON has carried out a lawful statutory ballot. The law protects any workers from dismissal whilst taking part in lawful industrial action at any time within 12 weeks of the start of action and depending on the circumstances; dismissal may also be unfair if it takes place later. Members of UNISON have the full protection of the union when taking lawful industrial action, and so no problems are anticipated.
Ok they can’t fire me, but they’ll still pick on me for striking right?
You’re also legally protected from being treated worse than others due to taking strike action. That’s because you are protected for suffering any detriment for taking part in trade union activities, of which the strike is one.
I’m worried about my finances if I take strike action, what help can I get?
We understand that taking strike action will have a negative effect on your finances. But we can help:
UNISON nationally have a strike fund which kicks in from the first day of strike action and entitles you to £50 per day as strike pay (or your full pay if you earn less than that). The idea of strike pay is that we can alleviate some of the difficulties people have in not be able to take action because of the worry of not affording to.
We will also be running a Branch Hardship Fund, details of which will be sent out via email. This will be available for members to apply to for additional financial support to avoid hardship as a result of the strike.
What if I take annual leave?
UNISON does not consider anyone who takes annual leave on strike days to be taking in the strike action. If you can, we would like you to postpone your leave so that you can take part in any strike action.
We work in care, what about the residents we work with? They are vulnerable — I can’t let them down.
Of course, we understand this concern. Most people work in your sector because they care about the service users they work with, and UNISON is committed to the best possible care for everyone who needs it. Our intention is not to put anyone in the homes at risk. The employer can make a request to the union for certain staff to be exempt from the strike if there is a direct danger to life or limb. UNISON will grant these where they are reasonable and necessary.
The quality of the care residents get is down to the experience and dedication of the staff who look after them. Worsening terms and conditions will lead to an exodus of long-standing staff and the wealth of experience they hold. Ultimately, this would result in far worse care outcomes for the residents than the impact of the strike days. It’s for this reason we have had such great support from the relatives of residents who are fully behind the action.
They’re already using loads of agency workers; won’t they just bring more in to cover the strike?
It’s against the law for agencies to provide workers to do the work of a striking worker. If an agency sends workers to cover the strike, then they’re opening themselves up to criminal charges. Let us know if you think this is happening or if you know which agency might be providing the workers.
If management make an offer, will the strike be cancelled?
If the Trust enter good faith negotiations to resolve the dispute, then UNISON may choose to postpone or cancel strike days. If an offer is made that’s significantly improving on the key areas of the demands, then we will likely put strike action on hold while we ballot members on whether to accept the offer. As we have had no engagement from them so far, it’s hard to predict what their response is going to be, so we want to keep all options open.
I’ve never been on strike before. What can I expect?
Don’t worry if you’ve never taken strike action before!
On the day, if you can make it to the pickets outside the homes, you’ll be met by our reps and other members. But remember, if you are striking, you can’t use any St Monica facilities or set foot on their property.
Picket lines are friendly and it’s a great atmosphere seeing colleagues and meeting new people. Seeing how much the public support us by tooting their horns or coming up for a chat is great.
We’d love for you to join us, so please do come along if you can.
My colleague wants to strike but is not a member of UNISON, what can they do?
This is a great time to ask people to join the union. If you have colleagues that are keen to take part, and they join UNISON before or on the day of strike action, they can:
- Join the strike
- Claim strike pay
- Be covered by UNISON legal support
So please encourage everyone to consider joining.
If colleagues don’t want to join, they can still take part in the strike, and they will have the same legal protections from dismissal and unfair treatment as members do.
What are the guidelines on picketing?
Picketing is a legal activity to peacefully persuade members not to go in to work. Pickets should wear an armband indicating they are on duty. Placards and posters should be displayed stating ‘OFFICIAL PICKET.’ The Branch will be in touch with members about picketing. and volunteers for the picket line will be advised about what to do. Each picket line will have a ‘Lead Picket’ who is an experienced trade union activist, and in contact on the day with the Branch office.
What is the law on picketing?
Peaceful picketing is entirely legal. Picketing should be carried out at or near an entrance or exit from a site at which the picket works. When others who are not in dispute come into work or use these entrances or exits, pickets must not interfere with them.
I don’t work in the care homes, but I’m worried they’ll come for our terms next – can I go on strike?
If you’re not affected by the currently proposals, then you’re not allowed to take part in the strike action. However, if you’re asked to cover the work of a striking worker then you should decline to and get in touch with the union as soon as you can.
However, if you’re not due to be in work when there’s strike on, why not come down and support the picket!
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