UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Social Care - Time to Organise the Unorganised

Community care magazine reports on growing 'alarm over lack of union membership among care workers':


Two decades ago arising from the NHS and Community Care Act 1990, home care was one of the first public services to be subjected to an imposed internal market (today re-branded as choice and diversity) when local authorities were forced to externalise 80% of their services.

This was a massive experiment in reengineering a workforce to squeeze labour costs and meet rising demand by rationing the allocation of resources. The consequence has been catastrophic for the quality of service and employment standards with hitherto flagship services atomised and agency/private sector employment proliferating.

This has led to widespread de-unionisation although some groups of home care workers have organised effectively to defend employment rights and quality of care such as UNISON members in Norfolk: http://www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/A11850.pdf 

As Helga Pile, Unison's national officer for social care, says in Community Care: "Moves towards private sector care delivery and workforce fragmentation have been synonymous with falling union membership, declining standards and a race to the bottom on pay and conditions. Some private providers are hostile to union involvement, despite the benefits it can bring to them."

The Norfolk example and the UNISON 3 Companies Project have demonstrated, with effective and targeted union organisation, such hostile employers can be challenged and exploited workforces can be organised. Organising social care workers is an absolute priority for UNISON in the next few years.