A while ago we published this post commenting on Thurrock Council’s catastrophic approach to industrial relations: Thurrock Council shooting themselves in the foot – March 13, 2021. As residents across the borough are now only too well aware, the council have pushed refuse workers, highway maintenance crews and street cleaners to the point where they are now out on strike.
It doesn’t end here though. Care home workers now feel they have been pushed to breaking point by Thurrock Council: Union details cuts planned for care staff and slams council for putting out ‘false information’ – protest to come outside civic offices where plush extension is being built – 21.04.21. There’s this as well: Emotive and thought-provoking story from death-stricken Covid front line in Corringham. Why one worker says the planned cuts to terms and conditions by Thurrock Council are wrong – 10.04.21
This is the account from a care worker at Collins House in Corringham that was featured in the above piece from Thurrock Nub News:
“I can confirm I am a care worker at Collins House where our union has taken this up and we are in meetings about a strike.
“In December we had an outbreak of Covid that slowly took over our team and residents passed away in droves.
“Staff were walking into rooms and finding residents dead when they had not long been speaking to them. We treat our residents like family and the huge death toll completely crushed all our morale, we were so depressed and ill with Covid ourselves.
“Staffing was critically low, no carers, no cleaners at the worst part. The odd few carers that weren’t infected worked alone with 80 per cent less workforce.
“The mental and physical toll was unimaginable. No extra thanks or support from the big dogs. We were offered online counselling but that’s it.
“No real thanks or reward. Morale is so low and this pay cut is now looming over the heads of workers that will struggle to afford to live with this cut. We are now faced with being left in a terrible position after how hard they’ve all worked.
“You are treated like a robot as a carer behind closed doors. While the world was clapping nurses and giving discounts in shops to teachers working from home, carers were spit on the whole time. The town never knew that nearly every staff member suffered with Covid due to the job. They risked their lives and family. One worker has only just come out of hospital after catching Covid in December. She could have died.
“Carers act as nurses, caregivers, emotional and physical supporters, cleaners, cooks, laundry staff, admin.
“You name it, there isn’t a job we don’t do. You are expected to do much more above your job description, working eight to15 hours a day. For a pittance but the 10% shift allowance and enhanced bank holiday pay we get that the council now wants to cut is a small lifeline.
“The council wants to cut additional pay for bank holiday working and night shift workers to now work for a day rate, which is going to lose them a lot of staff.
“Who would work nights as the same pay as day workers?
“And take a cut to our yearly increment which is a few pennies to our hourly rate every year.
“These cuts are to care workers that have worked throughout the pandemic without so much as a thank-you.
“Ninety per cent of staff caught Covid with three hospitalised and still struggling.
“These cuts are a kick in the teeth from a council chief executive, Lyn Carpenter, who sits in her ivory tower!
“If it goes through the council will find they have a crisis of no carers as it will pay more to work in a shop or elsewhere with a lot less mental and physical stress.
“That will mean they will lose some of the most dedicated carers in the borough. Collins House treat their residents like royalty and who knows what type of carers we will potentially have to leave our extended family to. It’s very sad.”
A petition has been launched for residents to show their support for workers.
Back in the spring and early summer of last year, a fair few people were out on their doorsteps to ‘clap for the NHS’. While the NHS workers found themselves to be the focus of attention as a result of choreographed campaign to garner public support for them, care home workers were the Cinderella service, out of sight and out of mind. A service that only comes into people’s consciousness when they have an elderly or vulnerable resident in a care home. A service that at the start of the crisis was placed under intolerable stress as many elderly and vulnerable people suffering from Covid were prematurely discharged from hospital and sent back to, or into, under-resourced care homes.
What thanks do the care home workers get from Thurrock Council for the sacrifices they’ve made? Cuts to their pay and a worsening of their terms and conditions of employment. That will inevitably lead to staff shortages as people find less stressful and better rewarded employment. The council may well try to compensate for this by using agency workers. Anyone who has ever had any experience of caring for vulnerable elderly relatives will know that an ever shifting cast of agency workers is a poor substitute for permanent staff who have built up a relationship with the people in their care. That doesn’t matter to the bean counters at the council whose only concern is that the figures add up in the way they want them to.
Yet, while all of this is going on, Thurrock Council are pushing ahead with their vanity project of an extension to their offices in New Road, Grays. Also, the salaries of the chief executive, Lyn Carpenter, and other senior officers remain untouched. Suffice to say that whatever action the care workers decide to take, they will have our total solidarity and backing.