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Doncaster healthcare workers on strike for third time

Unison members in Doncaster have held a further 48 hours of strike action this week over changes to their pay and conditions.

The latest round of action by nurses at a Doncaster learning disability service began at 7am on Sunday morning and ended earlier today. It follows two previous weeks of strike action in March and February.

A contract to run the supported living service, which caters for 140 adults with learning disabilities, was awarded to Care UK last autumn by the local council.

Since then the provider has asked nursing staff to accept reductions in “enhancement” payments for working unsociable hours and annual leave, and move to statutory maternity provision and sick pay. The changes affect about 25 nurses.

A seven-day strike by 120 Unison members went ahead at the end of February and a second seven-day walk-out on 19 March, after talks between the two sides ended without resolution.

This week Unison claimed that, although the union had tried to negotiate, Care UK “refuses to back down from plans to slash the pay, terms and conditions of the workforce”.

Rob Green, from Unison’s Doncaster health branch, previously told Nursing Times that nurses were “facing losing about £400 a month and can’t afford to take a cut like that”. “The company needs to take care of its employees so they can take care of service users,” he said.

The Doncaster, District and Bassetlaw health branch of Unison has launched a financial appeal to help its members during their third period of action.

But in its latest statement on the dispute, Care UK said it was unable to pour extra money into staff costs for the service, because it was 100% funded by the council.

Chris Hindle, Care UK’s director of learning disability services, said: “Further strike action doesn’t change the financial position. Doncaster Council, which is the sole funder of the service, is in a tight financial situation. It expects this service to move to a sustainable financial footing at the same time as enhancing services.”

He added: “I genuinely believe our proposal… is a fair way of delivering change at a time when public sector funded services are juggling a growing demand and dramatic budget cuts.”

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