Charity’s zero hours ‘race to the bottom’: Carers fear losing homes over new work terms

Picture: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Picture: Matt Cardy/Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images

Staff at a Hackney care charity, which boasts the Queen as patron, have been threatened with dismissal if they do not sign a new zero hours contract – which gives them no guarantee of any work whatsoever.

Proposed changes at TLC Care Services mean staff will not be paid for travelling in between jobs as they are presently, or if a job is cancelled with less than 24 hours notice.

If carers do not sign new contracts by May they face dismissal, and re-employment under the new terms.

One carer who wished to remain anonymous said: “I’m a poor person, I’m working 80 hours a week to make ends meet, but with what they are implementing now I’m going to be poorer.

“Zero hours is for children, if children don’t feel like going to work they don’t have to, but this is not for people like me who don’t want to be scrounging on the government for nothing.”

Brian Woolgar, from Unite the union, who is fighting for the care workers to keep their current terms and conditions, warned that it would be hard to recruit committed staff with a pay rate of £8.38 an hour, below the Living Wage of £9.15 an hour.

He said: “The care sector is increasingly afflicted by the ‘race to the bottom’ to cut costs at the expense of those who deliver this vital care.

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“Zero hours contracts represent total insecurity, people can’t guarantee they will pay their bills, they are bearing all the risk for the employer, for appointments being cancelled, for the employer not getting contracts and so on.

“I’ve heard decent and committed staff saying: ‘with these rates of pay I might as go stacking shelves in supermarkets’, they are beholden to the same regulations as doctors and nurses but without the pay – such as administering medication correctly, sensitive personal care, and safeguarding regulations.”

Following a merger in July 2012 the charity’s parent company is Friends of the Elderly, which has the Queen as a patron.

A spokesman for the Royal Household said they “would not be in a position to comment on contractual negotiations of this nature”.

A spokesman for TLC said: “It is not possible for us to guarantee hours for all staff, due to the nature of the services we provide. Any staff that do have defined hours will retain those guaranteed hours.

“The price that local authorities will and can pay per hour

will impact on the employment terms and conditions for care workers.

“Local authorities are experiencing government funding cutbacks of up to 40 per cent whilst organisations like TLC are striving to maintain an excellent service to older local people.”

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