Press Release – UNISON Bristol & UNISON North Somerset 09/03/2022 – for immediate release

St Monica Trust threatens Fire and Rehire of hundreds of workers

UNISON Bristol and North Somerset Branches are incredibly concerned about proposals at St Monica Trust that could see hundreds of hard-working care home staff forced to accept worse terms and conditions or to lose their job.

UNISON was alerted to the changes when worried members contacted their union about a formal consultation being undertaken by the Trust. As the trust does not currently recognise a union in the workplace, staff members were asked to step up to become employee representatives. Those that took on this role were made responsible for sharing important information on the proposals back to their colleagues. This was after just 3 hours of training on complex legal issues, such as contract variation and collective redundancy, delivered to them by the Trust’s solicitor, rather than someone unconnected to their employer.

Under the proposals which followed, staff learnt that the Trust intends to change their pay and hours, cut their benefits, including occupational sick pay, and make them work a longer notice period  should they decide to leave. A substantial number of members are set to lose out on significant amounts of pay due to a proposed cut to the enhancement rate for weekend and night-time working. With the company aiming to introduce changes on 1st May 2022 this would come at a time when many low paid staff are already struggling due to the national cost of living crisis and skyrocketing bills.

Care work is still overwhelmingly gendered, with 80% of all jobs in adult social care undertaken by women. These are women who, as well as working for a wage, are often performing unpaid care at home for their children and other family members. Many mothers need to set their working hours around childcare and still bring enough money home to feed and clothe their kids and changes to shift patterns and reductions in pay will leave many members struggling to balance these responsibilities.

Members have shared with UNISON what it would mean for them:

“I have worked for St Monica for several years & worked throughout the pandemic picking up extra hours to help out. I now find that my contracted hours are no longer needed by St Monica. As a working mum I need to be able to fit around school hours. I feel let down & unsupported by these proposals & my well-being has taken a toll with the uncertainty.”

 

“I work nights so that I can be with my children as a single mum. Cutting hours and pay will have a huge effect on our lives. We would be saying goodbye to the family holiday. I would worry about costs of school uniforms. I would need to find another job.”

Following the outbreak of COVID-19, workers in all industries have understood much more sharply the importance of decent occupational sick pay should the worst happen.  And many UNISON members have highlighted their concerns around the cut to sick pay, which could leave them with 6 months less pay should they  suffer a long-term illness. They told UNISON that the job has become increasingly physical and dangerous over the years, and they are seeing a much higher level of need from residents than they used to, which brings with it additional risks to their health and safety.

When UNISON  approached the employer to enter into consultation and negotiations about the proposal, the Trust said that it was only willing to provide the information that the staff were receiving in order to enable the union “to support [our] members through this consultation process”. UNISON was not invited to join the consultation.

Josh Connor, Branch organiser for UNISON Bristol said:

“The proposed use of fire and rehire, a despicable practice which aims to remove choice and force workers to accept whatever their employer decides, is an unacceptable way to treat hard working staff. UNISON stands firmly against fire and rehire and, should the Trust choose to continue down this path, this time will be no exception. The public made their feelings known when Clarks Shoes tried this approach with their employees and the company was forced to retract. We will be highlighting the Trust’s actions to the public and calling for similar solidarity from workers across the Bristol and North Somerset to say NO to fire and rehire.

For further information or comment please contact Josh Connor Joshua.connor@bristolunison.co.uk

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