Support workers at Bron Afon housing association in Cwmbran will go on strike tomorrow (Thursday), in protest at the decision to reduce annual salaries by more than £3,000. UNISON has said three, twenty-four hour stoppages are planned in response to the move which has slashed annual wages for the overwhelming majority of staff in the Supported Living Team from £23,572 to £20,416.
Support workers at the not-for-profit organisation, provide assistance to vulnerable people over the age of 50 in their own homes, helping them access benefits and acting as their advocates with housing and financial problems. They provide practical support too to those with mental health issues, addictions and those who have experienced domestic abuse.
As well as losing £3,000 a year, Bron Afon has removed staff pay increments, placing workers on spot salaries and extended service hours, moves it deemed necessary despite winning the biggest older persons contract in Wales. The dramatic increase in client numbers under the new contract means staff are having to work even harder for significantly less money.
Cheryl Morgan, UNISON Torfaen branch secretary said,
“You have a group of workers who are dedicated to helping improve the quality of life for vulnerable people and give them more independence. Their vital interventions allow service users to keep their home. Bron Afon has stripped these employees of thousands of pounds. It has treated them with contempt, misled them and reduced many to tears. Bron Afon uses every opportunity to proclaim it is a progressive organisation but there is nothing ethical about its behaviour here. Staff are fighting back.
“For the last five months, UNISON has tried its best to work with the employer to identify money which could be redistributed to staff. Instead, Bron Afon is obstructive and withholds information. On winning the contract, Bron Afon broke promises to invest in staff and now it’s raiding the wages of its own employees.
“Now wages have been slashed, the benefits some service users receive amount to more than the salary of the people looking after them. Employees have told us they used to feel proud to work for Bron Afon and now they feel insignificant and worthless.
“We are also saying to Torfaen council: this scandal is happening under your noses. Bron Afon staff live in Torfaen and they are helping your constituents. They need your support.”
The Supported Living Team was a blueprint for the development of a separate team supporting those under 50 years. The Supported Living Team trained them and yet they earn £7,000 a year less.
Notes to editors
- There are 12 employees in the Supported Living Team
- 8 employees voted for strike action. No employees voted against strike action.
- Three stoppages of 24 hours are planned. Further strike action will take place on 21 July and 24 July. UNISON has advised staff will also be taking action short of strike action throughout the period
- Support workers will be on a picket line on the road at the entrance to Bron Afon, William Brown Close, Cwmbran on Thursday (13 July) morning at 7am until 11am. UNISON representatives will be available for interview on the picket line. Interested journalists should contact Alastair Gittins, below.
- Powerful testimonies from support workers about what life at Bron Afon is like, are attached.
- Bron Afon provides affordable housing (as a social landlord), support services to tenants, maintenance and individual care support (not all tenants require assistance).
- Bron Afon won the new contract in December 2016. It is the biggest older persons contract in Wales.
- In April the Association issued new contracts to the Supported Living Team which cut salaries by between £1,500 and £3,000 – the overwhelming majority’s salaries were cut by £3,000 and this has been implemented. Staff have been placed on spot salaries and now earn £20,416.
- The new contracts meant: the service hours increased from 9am-5pm to 8am-8pm, (same working hours, much longer day); an increase in clients from 325 to 450.
- UNISON members have said the faster turnaround on what support workers are asked to do with clients in a shorter time means the quality of support provided is impacted.
- UNISON pursued a grievance on behalf of all staff. Bron Avon has refused to meaningfully engage with UNISON to resolve the dispute and indeed the behaviour of one manager has inflamed tensions.
- Bron Afon’s actions go against everything it proclaims in its mission statement: Caring about people; listening and learning; involving people in decisions; being trustworthy, open and honest.
Alastair Gittins, UNISON press officer 07816 53 83 97