After several months of attempting to negotiate with their employers in good faith, care workers and cleaners at Sage nursing home in North London have been left with no choice but to go on strike, and will walk off the job for the first time ever, on the 15th – 17th of January.
They have risked their lives to care for the elderly and vulnerable throughout this pandemic, but despite their efforts and their sacrifices, Sage’s trustees have repeatedly refused to countenance the possibility of meeting their more than reasonable demands of a living wage of £12 per hour and parity in sick pay and annual leave with NHS rates.
In fact, these workers have been treated with nothing short of contempt by Sage’s trustees who have refused to negotiate with the workers in good faith and who have refused to voluntarily recognise their trade union of choice, UVW, despite the workers hitting the threshold for recognition.
Sage’s trustees, two of whom are billionaires, continue to cite the widespread use of poverty pay and precarity across the sector as justification for refusing to meet the workers’ demands. Acting as if £12 per hour were a luxury instead of the bare minimum needed to live a dignified life in London, one of the most expensive cities on the planet, and which stands far below the average UK hourly wage which is just above £15 per hour.
But what is more shameful still, is that Sage’s trustees have failed to properly address numerous grievances filed by the workers detailing alarming cases of alleged discrimination, and many workers report feeling that they are now being targeted by management for raising their concerns. UVW believes there can be no justification for treating workers in this way.
These workers have given years, and in some cases decades, of their lives to Sage and to caring for Sage’s residents and they are no longer willing to wait in vain and be taken for granted; which is why on the 15th – 17th of January they will go on strike for the first time – and we expect this to be the first of many strikes – to get the respect, equality and dignity that they are long overdue.
But these workers are not alone, not only do they have support from community leaders in Barnet and Golders Green, as well as numerous support from organisations and individuals affiliated to the Labour Party, Green Party and other groups, they are now also starting to be heard in Parliament. With Labour MP Paula Barker tabling EDM 1314 to call upon Sage’s trustees to do the right thing and meet these workers’ demands.
Speaking about how the workers’ feel about being forced to take strike action, Bile, a care worker, said the following:
“People are asking why we are striking? We have worked and worked in this pandemic, but when an employee, whether they’re a domestic, a cleaner, laundry staff, maintenance, or a carer voices their opinion, there is a barrier, there is a block, they’re ignored, why is this happening? It’s happening because our bosses look at us like we’re nothing. The work we do, we do it with pride, we do it with dignity and we do it to put bread on our table, but to them this is not a ‘decent work’, it is not ‘a real job’, we might not wear tie and suit, but look after the residents at Sage, the elderly and the vulnerable in the local Jewish community, and we do it with compassion and pride.
For us, this is a profession, and a dignified one at that. But unfortunately, striking has turned to be the only way that we can make our voices heard. We are simply asking for recognition for what we do, we want the community in Golders Green, and society i general, to trat us like human beings, that is why we are asking for a living wage, better sick pay, a halt to discrimination, an end to inequalities at work and a better place to work so that we can continue to care for the residents”
So, if you want to support these workers and be part of a 2021 fightback for care workers, here is what you can do.