“An attack on workers’ rights”: Alex backs care workers’ in campaign against de-recognition of trade unions by Barchester Healthcare

Alex with GMB’s Laura Maughan

Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham has backed and local care workers as they campaign against a care home provider’s decision to refuse to negotiate agreements with their trade unions on pay and conditions.

Barchester Healthcare, which operates Billingham Grange Independent Hospital in Billingham has moved to scrap trade union recognition agreements, which will see care workers lose trade union access. It is estimated that around 30,000 care workers across the country will lose the right to this access. This de-recognition will take effect on 6 March.

Writing to Dr Pete Calveley, CEO of Barchester Healthcare, Alex highlighted the hard work of care workers throughout the pandemic and called on the company to re-think its decision to scrap trade union recognition agreements which Alex argues goes against efforts to attract and retain people in the care profession.

The Stockton North MP met with Laura Maughan, GMB’s Social Care Lead for the Northern Region on 1 March to discuss the matter further, and see how Alex, the GMB and other trade unions – Unison and the Royal College of Nurses – can work together to support care workers.

Alex said:

“Barchester’s move to cease working with the trade unions and stop its employees accessing this vital resource is undoubtedly the wrong thing to do and shows little thanks to the thousands of carers who worked hard throughout the pandemic to ensure some of the most vulnerable people in society were well-looked after.

“On a more general point, the Covid pandemic has shown the need for a more robust social care system and incentives to attract, and retain, people into the profession. The tearing up of trade union recognition agreements is utterly contrary to this.

“I firmly believe that when trade unions and employers work together, the gains all round can considerable. I’m urging Barchester Healthcare to do the right thing: get round the table with GMB and stop recognise that trade unions have an important role to play in their workplaces.”

Laura Maughan from GMB said:

“The decision of Barchester to de-recognise the GMB and other trade unions is just the beginning, with other providers set to follow in what can only be described as a fresh attack on employment rights, diminishing workers voices and value in an already broken private care sector. This is not levelling up, it’s levelling down. 

“The COVID Pandemic ruthlessly exposed the state of an already failing sector with social care workers on the sharp end of the pandemic lacking PPE, facing low staffing levels, low pay, lack of sick pay and serious health and safety risks. It is morally unjustifiable to silence them after the sacrifices they have made and employers such as Barchester are driving a decade long race to the bottom on the rights of workers in the social care sector. 

“GMB are fighting to make work better for our members, led by our members, and we are campaigning in workplaces to that effect.”