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Photo essay: Barnet’s disastrous privatisation of elderly care

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Careworker Breege Kelly at a strike rally

Photo: Careworker Breege Kelly at a strike rally

Meeting on Wednesday nights throughout 2007 and 2008, careworkers organised strike action to fight for the return of pay and leave allowances.

Unison recruited well in the first instance and strikes were solid, even though many careworkers were new to industrial action. There was fury and a real sense of injustice.

'It’s always the low-paid workers that they’re hitting,' said Fremantle domestic worker Breege Kelly. Kelly had worked in the laundries and kitchens of Barnet council and Fremantle carehomes for 18 years. She got her letter telling her to sign the new contract just before Christmas 2006. After the cut, she took extra shifts on transport duty to make up the hours she lost.

Others had to look to their families for help. Another domestic worker, Joyce Smith, had worked in Barnet carehomes for nearly 30 years when she was forced to sign the new contract. After the cuts, Smith's husband, who'd been retired, got a part time job to help pay the bills. 'We've still got a mortgage.'

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Kate Belgrave blogs on the experience of public service users facing cuts.

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