FM wades into care home row amid 'threats to slash workers pay'

Humza Yousaf urged Minster Care Group to negotiate with GMB Scotland members to avoid strike action.

First Minister Humza Yousaf urges care home bosses to avoid strike action at Glasgow sites STV News

The First Minister has waded into a row between care workers and bosses over alleged threats to slash pay.

Humza Yousaf wrote to Minster Care Group urging executives to negotiate with staff in a bid to avoid strike action at three Glasgow homes. 

It comes as GMB Scotland announced 98% of its members at Baillieston, Cardonald and Stobhill Care Homes voted to take strike action over the issue. 

Silverline, who recently took over the sites which are now administered by Minster Care Group, has been accused of attempting to slash the wages of staff and derecognise the trade union.

However the company denied this and said staff were free to continue to be represented by a trade union.

The proposed strikes would be the first at Scottish care homes and come after workers overwhelmingly rejected a pay offer at the three sites.

Yousaf paid tribute to staff at the homes in a letter to Mahesh Patel, chief executive of the company, and called for action to resolve the dispute.

He wrote: “Social care workers provide a vital service. Their work providing personal care and social support to residents is essential to the running of care homes that are rooted in compassion.”

The SNP MSP also voiced concerns over the alleged threat to derecognise the GMB.

He wrote: “My own relationship with trade unions has been positive and constructive.

“Even where there have been disagreements, my approach has been to always continue constructive dialogue to try and find a solution.

“I hope you can offer reassurances that this will be your approach going forward.”

The homes, where 150 residents are cared for by around 200 staff, were previously run by the Four Seasons group before being taken over by Silverline and are now administered by Minster Care Group.

Kirsty Nimmo, GMB Scotland organiser, has claimed the new management is attempting to drive down pay and conditions, cutting overtime pay and reneging on previous pay offers.

She said the overwhelming support for strikes, when more than 100 staff were balloted with the majority backing action, exposes the anger of staff and their refusal to accept an assault on their pay and conditions.

She said: “Care workers are desperately worried for the residents they care for but also for their own families as the new owners refuse to protect their wages and conditions.

“The staff deserve clarity and reassurance but instead have been plunged into continuing uncertainty and chaos. It cannot and must not go on.

“They appreciate Humza Yousaf’s obvious appreciation of the jobs they do and only wish the company would show the same respect for their crucial work.

“It is time for this company to reassure staff, avert these strikes and end what has been a hugely worrying time for the workers and the residents.”

A spokesperson for Silverline said: “The welfare of residents is paramount and contingency measures are in place to ensure the continuation of quality care at each of the homes in the event of any strike action.

“The previous management team attempted, without success, to engage with the GMB to agree matters in relation to staff wages prior to our involvement, including the proposal to alter overtime pay arrangements.

“We met the GMB at the offices of ACAS in July and explained that, while we wanted all care teams to be paid more, the trading situation of the homes means this is impossible and the alternative is that the company goes into insolvency.

“Our proposal for wage rates (which has been implemented) increased the lowest rate for care staff from £10.50 to £10.90 from April 1 2023, which is in line with the requirements of the National Care Home Contract and indeed 48p per hour more than the National Living Wage.

“Our proposal for overtime remains the same as the previous management, being an additional £1 per hour. There is no contractual obligation for staff to work overtime, or to be paid overtime at enhanced rates.

“GMB representatives at the meeting failed to respect or accept our explanations of the financial situation and merely repeated demands for a minimum rate of £15 per hour, way in excess of the National Contract requirements. We therefore parted having not reached agreement.

“We welcome the intervention of the First Minister and a number of MSPs and look forward to receiving any assistance they can offer. We have pointed out that the pay rates we have implemented are directly linked to what operators receive in fee rates.

“This rate is set out in the National Care Home Contract – if it is no longer deemed appropriate then the Scottish Government has the power to increase fees to operators and this will enable staff to be paid more.”

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