Alternative Futures Group employees strike in pay dispute

Care support employee

Around 650 care support staff employed by the Alternative Futures Group (AFG), who are also members of the trade union Unison, are beginning seven days of strike action today (Tuesday 7 May 2019) in a dispute over pay.

Unison has stated that AFG is reducing care employees’ pay for sleep-in shifts; these are night-time shifts where employees can sleep at the workplace but are available to perform tasks if required. Traditionally, care support staff work for the majority of their sleep-in shifts rather than sleep.

The trade union argues that AFG care support employees, who are paid the national minimum wage for their regular hours, could lose as much as £2,000 a year as a result of the reduction in pay for sleep-in shifts.

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Unison stated that it has offered to meet with AFG for negotiation purposes to avert the strike action, but that this offer was rejected by the employer.

AFG care support staff who are members of Unison have received additional support via a public petition; to date, this has collected more than 13,000 signatures. Unison is further planning a public rally on Friday 10 May 2019 at 12.00pm at St George’s Hall in Liverpool.

Paula Barker, north west regional convenor at Unison, said: “AFG staff and council commissioners are furious that AFG senior managers have refused to negotiate to resolve the dispute. AFG’s pay cuts are jeopardising the future provision of care services for vulnerable people, as experienced and skilled care staff are being driven out of the sector.

“AFG’s senior management have been entrusted with providing a very important public service, but their actions are both unjust and reckless. AFG need to get back round the table and enter into serious talks to get this matter resolved.”

AFG provides support for those with learning or physical disabilities, mental health problems, substance misuse issues, autism, young people in transition or those with complex care needs.

A spokesperson at AFG added: “We continue to be extremely disappointed that Unison has decided to call for a walk out of AFG support [staff] members from 7 May 2019.

“Unison action is entirely unnecessary and unfounded. It is untrue to suggest that council commissioners are ‘furious’. AFG [has] maintained regular contact with our commissioners during this challenging time and they have been both supportive and understanding of our position. We continue to look to work in partnership with them to maximise the use of the financial resources available.

“The funding we receive from local councils for sleep-in care does not cover the costs to pay our support staff national minimum wage. For the last four years the charity has subsidised this shortfall to the tune of £8.1 million, but this is now no longer sustainable.

“This dispute is the result of a funding crisis in social care which is not in AFG’s control. We urge central and local government to address the issue urgently so that providers receive the appropriate funding to pay our hardworking, dedicated support staff a fair and proper wage for the excellent care they deliver.

“AFG have offered [for] talks to take place on 14 and 23 May and we are awaiting feedback from [Unison].”