Caption: A petition against the pay cuts has collected more than 13,000 signatures.
Care support workers who work for the Alternative Futures Group (AFG) are voting on whether to take strike action in a ballot organised by their trade union, Unison.
Staff are facing significant cuts to their incomes due to AFG’s plan to cut back on top-up payments on workers’ sleep-in shifts.
The union claims that workers could be out of pocket by £40 a week, or £2,000 a year.
AFG, a charity which employs 2,500 care staff, mainly in the North West, has announced that it will reduce the payments next month.
A petition against the move has collected more than 13,000 signatures, and attracted support from local politicians.
AFG says local authorities “haven’t sufficiently funded AFG for sleep-ins to pay National Minimum Wage to employees” leading to AFG being in deficit for the last three years.
But Unison North West regional organiser Tim Ellis disagrees.
“Councils are paying AFG enough for them to pay their staff decently for sleep-ins. AFG should pass that public money on to where it’s supposed to go – to the hardworking frontline support workers who cannot afford cuts to their incomes,” he said.
“AFG’s current plans are jeopardising service provision, impoverishing staff, and they ignore local councils’ wishes. AFG faces the real prospect of strike action if they continue on their reckless course.”
Unison national officer Gavin Edwards said that local authorities and organisations providing care who are seeking to cut the wages of already low paid care staff are “behaving irresponsibly”, and storing up “serious issues for the future”.
“Unison does not consider this issue to be settled legally. We’ll continue to stand up for the right of care workers to receive at least the legal wage for every hour of their crucially important work,” he added.
Some employers who had begun to pay the full NMW for hours spent asleep by care workers – in response to tribunal rulings and official guidance – are going back to paying a lower flat rate following a contrary judgement in the court of appeal.
Unison said it is seeking to clarify this judgement, arguing that sleep-in shifts should count as working time and be paid at hourly minimum wage rates or higher.
“Care employers seeking to drive down pay risk losing staff and damaging morale in this crucial sector,” it said in a statement.
Voting on the strike action at AFG is expected to close next month.