They devote their lives to caring for disabled people, but their employers do not seem to care about them, care workers in Blenheim say.
IDEA Services care workers took to the streets in central Blenheim for a one-hour strike on Thursday to protest their treatment by the national service provider.
“The main thing is the pay rise, we haven’t had one since October 2015,” one worker, who did not want to be named, said at the rally.
“Health and safety, job security, and the cuts, cutting the services … People will lose their jobs and we still have no idea when that is coming. People here are struggling, some of them have families to support.”
* Thousands of IDEA Services employees strike on the streets
* Families vulnerable as IDEA Services drop support services in Marlborough
* IDEA Services support staff ‘shell-shocked’ by decision to withdraw from services
* IDEA Services plans to cut 5 per cent of its business, affecting more than 1000 service users
About 30 care workers held signs and chanted on the roundabout at the corner of Seymour St and High St, gaining lots of toots from commuters, from 8.30am.
The national strike came after IDEA Services decided to cut 5 per cent of its business in the face of limited funding and pressure on its services.
The provider announced it would end a raft of services, including facility-based respite, foster care, shared care and home support services, in March, but end dates for the services were varied and sometimes vague.
Industry union E Tu regional co-ordinator Andrew Irvine said the workers were campaigning for better pay and health and safety provisions long before the service cuts were announced.
“You judge a community by how it treats its most vulnerable. These guys treat their clients with respect, and they just expect a bit of respect back.”
Another care worker, who asked not to be named as staff were told not to speak to the media, said they felt let down by their employers.
She and her colleagues were working double shifts, and caring for violent clients alone when the work required two or three people.
“It’s hard work, not just mentally, but physically. We’re responsible for people’s lives. If we had better pay, we might not be so short-staffed, which puts our safety at risk.”
Irvine said if the union did not reach a compromise on contracts with IDEA Services following Thursday’s strike, another strike would be planned for May.
“And this time it will be for two hours.”
IDEA Services chief operating officer Janine Stewart said the provider hoped to reach a settlement soon.
“We continue to meet with the union in good faith and IDEA Services has plans in place to ensure no-one we support is adversely affected by strike action.”