Potential strike action ‘unwarranted’, says St Monica Trust CEO

St Monica Trust chief executive David Williams

A decision by care staff at St Monica Trust to take strike action has been described by the charity’s chief executive as ‘unwarranted’.

Care workers, registered nurses and residential home staff have announced a series of strike dates over a pay deal dispute. The first strike is planned for 29 June, with further action set for 2, 5, 10 and 11 July. Strikes are due to take place in care homes across South Gloucestershire, North Somerset, and Bath and North East Somerset.

More than 100 staff at four care homes were told in March they were being offered new contracts, which Unison argues would cost them thousands of pounds a year and watered down their sick pay. Failure to sign up would result in workers losing their posts, it said.

It also said weekend pay rates would fall for senior care workers by 21% under plans, while other staff were being asked to take a 10% cut to their salaries, equating to a decrease of around £400 a month.

As part of a restructure St Monica Trust’s chief executive David Williams said it was offering staff pay protection for the next two years, guaranteeing no workers affected by the proposal would be worse off.

He said staff were awarded a 4% pay rise this year and that the provider was committed to making ‘necessary changes’.

Williams said: ‘As a local charity, the world we are now operating in is very different to the one of two years ago. The pandemic continues to have a significant impact on the UK’s health and social care sector, as does the nationwide social care recruitment crisis.’

Only 64 union members voted in favour of strike action, he said, representing less than half of Unison’s 137 members at the trust, showing the majority were not in favour.

‘Whilst this result technically means that the union can call a strike, this is extremely disappointing given that among more than 500 colleagues who work at the trust’s care homes, industrial action is only supported by 64 individuals,’ said Williams.

‘Strike action at this vital stage of the trust’s recovery from the pandemic is especially unwarranted, given that the clear majority of St Monica Trust colleagues at all four of the trust’s care homes have now agreed to the proposed changes.’

However, Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: ‘Going on strike is always the last option. But when an employer is determined to cut the wages of already low-paid care staff in the middle of the cost-of-living catastrophe, employees have little choice but to take action.

‘Relatives of those in care are rightly worried about what these changes will mean. Agency staff who don’t know or understand their loved ones will be parachuted in to replace experienced workers. Levels of care will fall and costs will go up.’