Branch Secretary :

Sanctuary Care staff bullied by managers

Manager ripped up leaflets



Staff in care homes managed by Sanctuary Care in Greenwich have been threatened and bullied by managers in a crude response to discontent at the housing association’s proposals to attack pay and conditions.  Unite intially raised its concern at the bullying with senior management some time ago, reminding them of workers legal right to join a union of their choice. Unfortunately, despite assurances harassment has continued; in one case a manager ripped up Unite leaflets circulating in a care home.



Following further representations to senior management, Unite has been informed that Sanctuary Care have now sent out notices to managers reminding them of the legal right of staff to join Unite.  We requested that memos be sent out to stop the bullying and intimidation of staff.  We asked that copies were sent to workers to reassure them, but Sanctuary have refused to do this so far.  We hope that this limited step improves conditions, but we will take our concerns to local councillors and to the Care Quality Commission.  Unite suspects that intimidation is persisting and until the employer takes decisive to reassure workers the union will continue to highlight the issue.



Not compatible with caring environment



The Care Quality Commission states that among the qualities it looks for in the leadership of care homes is that it “promotes an open and fair culture”. It is clearly important to promote a caring environment where services can be genuinely focussed on vulnerable residents and staff feel able to speak out about improving the service and stopping any abuse.  Multiple stories of staff being intimidated in Sanctuary care homes are clearly not compatible with such creating such an environment!




Sanctuary bosses have now extended the consultation period to implement “changes”, better known to staff as attacks on terms and conditions.  Another meeting was hastily arranged last Thursday to better explain the need to make changes, but staff present made it crystal clear to management that simple repetition of the changes would not make the attacks on their terms and conditions any more acceptable.  When a Unite rep challenged management as to what they would do when workers refuse to sign away their rights by 1st October 2019 (deadline date), management simply said that they would have to consult again. This shows the potential power of the workers if the workforce remains united in opposition.



Irresponsible sickness policy



Unite members in particular took up the points that management raised.  Some warned of the disastrous effects of proposed sickness policy changes explaining that this will cause staff to come in even when they are ill if they fear not being paid.  One member pointed out the dangers to elderly and infirm residents in their care by explaining how staff coming in with a cold could cause residents to contract pneumonia. Other staff warned of mass resignations if the proposed changes go ahead.  The proposed changes to sick policy are irresponsible and show a deep disregard for the service to residents.  Recently, Unite successfully resisted proposals from Clarion to worsen sick pay for care and supported housing staff and we will do so again.



Lobby the council on Wednesday



Management tried to use Greenwich council cuts as an excuse for the attacks on terms and conditions, but blaming Greenwich does not absolve Sanctuary from its responsibility to staff or residents.  It is unclear to what extent the cuts are affecting Sanctuary’s budget, and we have outlined how big the organisations surpluses are elsewhere, but it underlines the importance of lobbying Greenwich Council this Wednesday to highlight the reality of implementing Tory cuts and outsourcing. It shows how outsourcing is being used to drive down costs which is why Unite calls for these care homes to be brought back under local authority control. 



The meeting also revealed the scandal of differing pay rates and the fact that as some workers have seen their pay rise as a result of the increase in minimum wage - well below the official 'living wage' - they have been told that they will not even get the miserly annual cost of living increase!  This will be another issue that Unite will take up with Sanctuary, but we will also be asking Greenwich Labour council if this is a practice that they condone.



Ethical employment



We call on Greenwich to make clear in a public statement to Sanctuary, that harrassment of their staff and attemtps to prevent them from joining a union of their choice is not acceptable. Sanctuary should concede proper union recognition instead of trying to shut down the legitmate voice of its employees. We invite them to discuss with us an agreement to support ethical employment in the voluntary sector along the lines of the recent agreement in Manchester.



Management have clearly underestimated the levels of anger amongst the workforce and, whilst some are contemplating leaving, the overwhelming majority are determined to stay and fight for themselves, their families and the residents who they care for.


Council lobby


Unite housing workers will be calling on unions, the Labour Party, residents families and the wider community to support the Sanctuary workers in resisting this race to the bottom.  That is why we will be lobbying Greenwich Council on Wednesday to tell them to stop the attacks on our members.  It is also why the Sanctuary Workers are preparing for strike action if the bosses do not give way.


13th May 2019



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