Picket over cuts to care worker benefits

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Home help provider Bryson Care West says it will engage with workers over proposed cuts to maternity and sickness benefits, mileage allowance and holiday pay.

The group made the pledge after members of the trade union, Unison, picketed its office on Spencer Road on Monday.

The union mounted the protest against the company’s plans to reduce the terms and conditions of employment of their workforce.

Unison claims Bryson intends overhauling terms and conditions by reducing sickness and maternity benefits, mileage allowances and, enhanced rates of pay for working bank holidays and weekends.

Unison’s regional organiser Joe McCusker said: “After securing a lucrative five year contract with the Western Health Trust, Bryson Care are now turning their attention to attacking the terms and conditions of employment of their domiciliary care workforce.

“These home care workers who provide an invaluable frontline service to the most vulnerable in our society feel totally undervalued and demoralised by Bryson Care’s plans to cut their terms and conditions of employment. This will have a devastating impact on the workers who are already finding it difficult to make ends meet.”

But a spokesperson for the care provider responded: “Bryson Care is committed to providing long-term employment and stability in the Derry/Western Trust area. We have a team of over 100 staff providing an invaluable frontline service for those in need.

“Through consultation with our staff, we are aware that some employees have contacted their trade union about proposed changes to their contracts.

“As we remain in consultation with our staff and have offered to meet with their trade union, it would be inappropriate and discourteous for us to comment further publicly at this stage.

“Bryson Care strives to ensure that we not only provide a wide range of services for the most vulnerable in society but that we continue to offer job security in the face of increasing budgetary pressures.”

Shaun Harkin, People Before Profit Westminster candidate for Foyle said: “Over the last week I met with domiciliary care workers at Bryson Care.

“We met to discuss changes Bryson management are seeking to impose to their terms and conditions. This includes unilaterally reducing their hourly rate and mileage rate, cutting maternity and sickness to statutory and changing their holiday entitlement. Workers have been told they can take it or leave it.

“Care workers play a crucial role in taking care of the sick and elderly in our society. They feed, clothe, bathe, administer medication, and provide much needed support and respite from social isolation. But their work can’t be valued because they barely make minimum wage.

“Most Bryson workers are on zero-hour contracts. Management prefer to call it ‘casual contracts’ but it amounts to same thing. No one with bills to pay thinks of their jobs as ‘casual’.

“Many Bryson workers are single parents. Most struggle week to week to pay their rents, mortgages, and support their families. Many have been at Bryson for a decade or more but haven’t been able to afford a holiday in years.

“Low-pay means many have to work 60 hours a week on a regular basis.”