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Care UK strikers lobby Miliband for public support
The striking Doncaster Care UK workers finished the last week of their most recent three-week strike action with a bang.
They started the week by joining NHS workers who were on national strike in Doncaster, Sheffield, Wakefield and Barnsley and ended it on stage at the TUC's demonstration rally in Hyde Park.
Solidarity visits were organised to Newcastle again, and to Hull where an "amazing £3,000" was raised in one night, including £300 raised at York Socialist Party's 99 Club benefit night.
Three Doncaster Care UK workers met with Labour leader and Doncaster MP Ed Miliband at his local surgery to once again ask for his public support for their fight against pay cuts and to defend the NHS.
This is an extract of the statement that the strikers presented to him:
"Mr Miliband, it's not easy to sit here and say this, we have had private but no public support from you or any of the local Labour MPs. The local Labour Party and councillors have been worse, we have not had one word of support or visit to our picket line from any of the local Labour Party. We cannot tell you how disappointing this has been for us. Most of us have been Labour voters all our lives, a good proportion of us are your constituents.
"You say you support a strong NHS. You say you recognise there is a cost of living crisis. You have declared your support for the Darlo Mums. You have backed demands for a living wage. We are at the sharp end of this government's creeping privatisation of the NHS. We are bearing the cost of the austerity programme introduced by the Tories and our colleagues are being paid less than a living wage, we are living the cost of living crisis. We need your help. In this dispute private support is meaningless. It's time to get off the fence - we want you to publicly state your support for our action".
In the meeting, Mr Miliband would still not commit to publicly expressing his support for the strikers, saying he was a "solutions man" and encouraged arbitration.
When he left his surgery, he was sort of photo-bombed by the strikers outside who now have a photograph of him 'supporting' them!
At the strikers' rally on Sunday, day 90 of strike action, the meeting voted to continue the dispute. Pressure is mounting on Care UK. The trustees of the Californian Teachers Union pension fund which is a major investor in Bridgepoint, the private equity company that owns Care UK, will meet strikers in the next ten days. Unison's organising and recruitment team are beginning to target the company in other regions.
Strikers rejected Care UK's offer of arbitration but feel confident that with the threat of more strike action, especially targeting Christmas, the management will be forced to come up with a much improved pay offer.
Keep up the messages of support and donations: Cheques are to be made payable to Doncaster Unison 20511, and posted to Unison, Jenkinson House, WhiteRose Way, Doncaster DN4 5GJ.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 20 October 2014 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.