Posted: 10.04.21 at 21:33 by The Editor
MORE employees of Thurrock Council may be about to take strike action as they fight to overturn plans by the authority to make changes to the terms and conditions of staff.
Unless there is a dramatic change of heart on either side of what has become a bitter industrial dispute, members of the Unite union will begin a three week period of industrial action on Tuesday (13 April) which will see them refusing to work certain hours.
The striking workers are members of the council’s environmental services teams and include refuse collectors, street cleaners and highways maintenance teams.
They will report for work at the beginning of their shifts at 6am on normal working working days but will cease working at 9am.
They have undertaken this course of staggered action to ensure that the council management cannot effectively lock them out and replace them with agency workers.
The action is in response to changes to allowances, shift patterns and bonus pay and it impacts on many other workers – including those in the care sector.
It is understood members of the GMB union will be balloted shortly about taking their own industrial action.
The sharp reality of life on the front line has become a focus of attention – with workers saying they feel ‘kicked in the teeth’ by a council money-saving policy that comes on the back of workers putting themselves at risk on the front line of the coronavirus battle – while executive management has stayed away and worked from home!
One care worker has told Nub News why the time has come to make a stance.
Though we know the identity of the person, we have agreed to respect a request for anonymity because of fear of retribution from management towards the care worker at a Corringham home around which Thurrock Council threw a veil of Covid-19 secrecy.
The writer summed up feelings by saying: “I love my job. You’re treated like a dog but the staff and residents are like family - we bring light and life into the job.”
“I can confirm I am a care worker at Collins House where our union has taken this up and we are in meetings about a strike.
“In December we had an outbreak of Covid that slowly took over our team and residents passed away in droves.
“Staff were walking into rooms and finding residents dead when they had not long been speaking to them. We treat our residents like family and the huge death toll completely crushed all our morale, we were so depressed and ill with Covid ourselves.
“Staffing was critically low, no carers, no cleaners at the worst part. The odd few carers that weren’t infected worked alone with 80 per cent less workforce.
“The mental and physical toll was unimaginable. No extra thanks or support from the big dogs. We were offered online counselling but that’s it.
“No real thanks or reward. Morale is so low and this pay cut is now looming over the heads of workers that will struggle to afford to live with this cut. We are now faced with being left in a terrible position after how hard they’ve all worked.
“You are treated like a robot as a carer behind closed doors. While the world was clapping nurses and giving discounts in shops to teachers working from home, carers were spit on the whole time. The town never knew that nearly every staff member suffered with Covid due to the job. They risked their lives and family. One worker has only just come out of hospital after catching Covid in December. She could have died.
“Carers act as nurses, caregivers, emotional and physical supporters, cleaners, cooks, laundry staff, admin.
“You name it, there isn’t a job we don’t do. You are expected to do much more above your job description, working eight to15 hours a day. For a pittance but the 10% shift allowance and enhanced bank holiday pay we get that the council now wants to cut is a small lifeline.
“The council wants to cut additional pay for bank holiday working and night shift workers to now work for a day rate, which is going to lose them a lot of staff.
“Who would work nights as the same pay as day workers?
“And take a cut to our yearly increment which is a few pennies to our hourly rate every year.
“These cuts are to care workers that have worked throughout the pandemic without so much as a thank-you.
“Ninety per cent of staff caught Covid with three hospitalised and still struggling.
“These cuts are a kick in the teeth from a council chief executive, Lyn Carpenter, who sits in her ivory tower!
“If it goes through the council will find they have a crisis of no carers as it will pay more to work in a shop or elsewhere with a lot less mental and physical stress.
“That will mean they will lose some of the most dedicated carers in the borough. Collins House treat their residents like royalty and who knows what type of carers we will potentially have to leave our extended family to. It’s very sad.”
A petition has been launched for residents to show their support for workers. It can be found via this link.