Tuesday, 14 February 2012


Peter Allen Co-chair of Green Left, was very concerned  to state, at the recent meeting between Green Left Committee members and Brighton and Hove Green party members and councillors, that even if  a cuts budget minimised the harm done to Council employees, it could impact secerely on employees providing services that are now contracted out to the private sector. Here "Kieran West" gives an idea what cuts can mean for this sector.


I work for a private company that provides care in the home for the elderly. The organisation is one of many in my town which provides the care that once would have been provided by the council. Because most care has been privatised there is now a highly diminished council care structure.

There is a stark difference between conditions for council workers and privatised workers. Council workers will even say that they’re not working too late in the evening “thanks to you guys”. Working conditions at a private company defy belief. I work on average 45-50 payable hours per week, despite not opting out of the 48 hour working week when I signed my contract. However these are also only contact hours.
Work is given on an almost “self-employed” basis. I only get paid for the time I am in a client’s house, not travel time, or gaps in my rota. Taking all that into account I probably work up to 70-75 hours per week.

Recently a lot of my work days have been from 7am to 9 or 10pm.due to me technically only being “on work time” during the time I am in a client’s house, the company gets around legal issues about providing breaks and maximum working hours. I am also not given a petrol allowance formost areas I cover. These long shifts take place one day after another, with no thought to how much break I get in between.

These conditions are the direct product of privatisation, as the council only pays the contracted company for time spent with the client. It also allows the company to keep us on casual zero hours contracts, and not as salaried workers. Dividing up the needs of clients into 10, 15 or 30 minute blocks means that clients often don’t get the care they need.

For example, I could arrive at a client’s house to find an issue has arisen since the last carer visited (fall, become ill, soiled themselves etc.), I will have to deal with this issue and will not left time to do the basic things I was meant to be there for (washing up, making their dinner).

Calls are packed in so tightly that often I have been given impossible rotas that assume I can be across town (at least a 10 minute drive) in five minutes. That’s if I get a rota at all! Recently rotas that are meant to arrive on Thursday to start the following Monday (too short notice as it is) have not been arriving until Monday or Tuesday of the week they are for. There is a complete lack of freedom to plan a personal life, or challenge issues such as overload of work.

There are big issues over sickness. As the company is chronically understaffed it seems that even one person being ill overstretches resources.The company has a mass text messaging system, notionally to let carers know medication details for clients, or changes to rotas. However this messaging system is mostly used to bully carers. We often get messages threatening us about the number of people off sick. The most hilarious message I’ve ever had said: “Carers, you do not work at Morrisons, you work with vulnerable adults, being sick and handing back shifts at short notice will not be tolerated”.

How I’m meant to be sick at long notice, I’m not entirely sure!

Over the Christmas period we were informed that they would not accept even one day’s sick leave without a doctor’s note, and that they were going to do “welfare visits”.When they were challenged on this they demurred, but we can only assume it was a threat to turn up at our homes to make sure we really were sick.

Clearly all sense of their legal responsibilities has left them. But the lack of trade union organisation has allowed them to get away with it.

As a socialist I have been agitating for colleagues to join a union. Several have, however the staffing turn over is so high that many have left. It is incredibly hard organising in the private care sector, I rarely see other carers and our work is atomised.

We need to be organised in these workplaces but we also need to have a wider campaign to bring care back into the public sector so that it can be better

PS Workers Liberty have given Green Left permission to distribute/publish this.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Letter in The Guardian calling for Maria Miller to resign.

From: Darkest Angel darkestangel32@hotmail.co.uk
Date: Fri, Feb 10, 2012 at 12:59 AM
Subject: Letter in The Guardian calling for Maria Miller to resign.

Hello there. In the light of recent interviews with Maria Miller MP (Minister for the Disabled and Under Secretary of State) an online group of disabled and non disabled activists are sending a letter to the guardian calling for her to resign. The article is here http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/feb/06/minister-disabled-no-shortage-jobs?CMP=twt_fd
 If you would like to have your name/organisation added to the list of signatures please reply asap so we can get it sent quickly. A copy of the letter is below. 

 An open letter to Ms Maria Miller, Under Secretary of State (Disabled People) Work and Pensions.
 Dear Maria Miller MP,
 We, the undersigned have no confidence in your abilities as Under Secretary of State (Disabled People) Work and Pensions. We believe that you should resign from your position for the following reasons:

 1) For failing to fight hard enough to ensure that disabled people receive a fairer assessment of their capabilities. For suggesting to Disability Campaigner, Sue Marsh, whose own Disability Living Allowance has been decreased, that she use her ‘extensive right of appeal through tribunals’ if she is unhappy about the DWP’s decision. You appears to be ignorant of how the proposed cuts to legal aid will severely limit access to justice through tribunals for thousands of DLA recipients. Added to this, the closure of many Citizens’ Advice Bureaux, because of cuts, means many people cannot get the advice they need.

 2) For persistently disregarding the views of charities, organisations, medical professionals, scholars & academics, independent inquiries & commissions, who have made it clear in public statements that the Work Capability Assessment in its current form is ‘not fit for purpose’ but is willingly administered by ATOS Heathcare.

3) For persistently defending the changes to move people from Incapacity Benefit to Employment & Support Allowance, which have led to many sick and disabled people being wrongly assessed and some terminally ill people being passed fit to work. Also for persistently defending the proposed change from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payments, which will take away the benefit from many needy and deserving people.

4) Your refusal to engage directly with the people at the first ‘Hardest Hit March’ on the 11th of May 2011, the follow up in October 2011 and more recently in January 2012 sent a clear message that, though you will participate safely from a live internet blog or a radio studio, you are reluctant to meet, in person, people with serious illness and disabilities whose anxiety and sense of injustice drive them to take to the streets in all weathers to voice their feelings

5) For being responsible for introducing the plan to charge lone parents to access the service which will replace the Child Support Agency, when organisations such as Gingerbread have opposed the idea because of the damaging effect it will have on children and the difficulties, if not impossibilities, of many parents in getting child maintenance. A large percentage of lone parents are disabled or caring for disabled children.

6) For failing to take a sufficiently strong public stand to protect disabled people from disability-based discrimination, prejudice and disability hatred. Such disability hatred often stems from articles in the media, including the state-sponsored BBC, which regularly portray people who are sick and disabled as scroungers, particularly those who suffer from conditions that may not be readily obvious.

7) For misleading the public by claiming that there is not a shortage of jobs but a fear of work, suggesting that all people who receive benefits are workshy. You said you believed the unemployment problem was down to a lack of ‘appetite’ for the jobs on offer, claiming that on any day there are 400,000 job vacancies. What you failed to mention was that there are 2.68 million people unemployed and that in some parts of the country, such as Hartlepool, there are twelve people chasing every vacancy. Neither did you mention that many of the jobs are part time and/or unsalaried and commission-based.

8) Finally, although your background is in marketing and advertising, you does not appear to be using your PR skills to highlight the plight of the sick, disabled, poor and vulnerable in our society, but rather the opposite. Before the 2010 General Election, Politicians were queuing up to promise the right to ‘recall’ MPs who do not do their jobs properly. So far, no legislation has been passed to enable people to do this. However, we, the undersigned, feel that this should be the case for you. It is for the above listed reasons that we, the undersigned believe that you, Ms Maria Miller MP, to be out of touch with the worries, concerns and outrage felt by sick, disabled, poor and vulnerable members of our society. We therefore urge you to resign immediately.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Health and Social Care bill.

Please act and also circulate widely
The pressure is mounting to save the NHS.....we need Andrew Lansley to publish the risk register relating to the Health and Social Care bill. Please copy the email below and send it to your MP asking them to sign the Early Day Motion to get the risk register released. You can find your MP's email address by putting in your postcode at  http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/
This is really important. Dr Eoin Clarke MP says in his blog:

Andrew Lansley has concealed a 'risk report' that has examined the potential dangers of his NHS Bill. He simply refuses to publish it. I am told that the reason for this is that the report contains a very serious warning about the long term damage the bill will do to the NHS. The chief warning in the report is that Lansley's reforms will spark a surge in health care costs and that the NHS will become unaffordable as private profiteers siphon off money for their own benefit. The report specifically warns that GPs have no experience or skills to manage costs effectively.

Simply copy the text below and create a new email to send to your MP. Remember to include your address so that your MP knows you live in their constituency.

Please could you sign this very important Early Day Motion to get the government to release the risk register relating to the Health and Social Care bill?

Yours sincerely,

Romayne Phoenix
Green Left

Thursday, 2 February 2012


Crucial time for action
Wednesday 7 March 6pm
Central Hall Westminster
The TUC have finally called a rally against the bill under the banner of the All Together for the NHS

In the mean time please support and publicse these actions
Lobby the BMA
Tuesday  07  February 6pm
BMA Tavistock Square, WC1
Leaflet attached
Lobby the House of Lords as Lansley's Bill reaches Report Stage
Wednesday 08 February 2.30 - 8.30 pm
Old Palace Yard, Westminster, Opposite the Lords
Leaflet attached

Candle lit demonstration and Q&A session
Sunday 05 February 5pm
Enfield Town Market Place, The George
Health Worker Network Meeting against the Bill
Saturday 4 February 12-4pm
Room 2C, University of London Union, Malet St, WC1

Romayne Phoenix