Sunday, 28 April 2013

Support the Equinox Workers

The following bulletin has been produced by UNITE about yet another attack on services and workers being fought by union members.

What does ‘Fair’ and ‘Open’ mean to you?         

Equinox is an organization which seeks to offer specialist care to vulnerable men and women with alcohol, drug and mental health problems in various residential and community based services.

Equinox staff are currently threatened with salary cuts of between 10 and 25% This affects 80% of the workforce..Of those staff facing reductions almost half are due to lose the higher percentage. In real terms this means many staff are being expected to accept cuts of £5,000 to £6,000 and in some cases even more.

For many this is an impossible ask. It risks throwing people into debt, if not poverty. Staff speak about their inability to pay mortgages, pay for school uniforms or school trips, afford transport to work, or access dental treatment or eye care for themselves and their families. Union reps are contacted on a daily basis by members who are shocked by these proposals and terrified of the future should they be introduced. Many people have said to us that they have been put into a situation where the only choice they have is to fight these unfair cuts. Many fear that they may be forced ultimately to resign rather than remain in a post which no longer pays the bills. This is obviously a terrifying prospect for all in these harsh times.
Equinox’s answer to this seems to be that they are prepared to lose many of their most experienced and competent staff.

In a recent communication with the union they asserted that they believed some staff to be over qualified for their roles with experience and skills which exceed Equinox requirements. They go on to say,  ‘ Consequently we have to accept that some of our more qualified staff may look elsewhere.’
It would be interesting to know which services they believe require less qualified, less experienced, less skilled staff.

Do the commissioners know that they have been receiving a quality of service over and above that for which they have contracted?
Have Equinox gone so far as to inform them of this and explain that in future they may only be able to offer reduced quality of care?

This justification for slashing salaries is obviously disingenuous. It is also insulting to staff and to a body of work carried out over the years by Equinox and would appear to put the reputation and future of Equinox in serious jeopardy.

An ugly consequence of the proposals as they currently stand is that a major gap in pay has been created between managers and frontline project workers. This did not exist in the past and for good reasons.
If these proposals go ahead Equinox will be creating a £7,500 pay differential between an Assistant Service Manager new in post and an experienced, highly functioning Project worker or Substance Misuse Worker. At present the salary difference is usually a fifth of that, reflecting the value placed on competent staff who spend the majority of their time working with the clients and helping them move on in their recovery.

Try collating outcome monitoring indicators or covering shifts , without competent, professional, innovative, valued, happy staff putting the work in with the people we have chosen to help.

It is significant that the word ‘hierarchy’ is used on at least two occasions in the formal consultation paper to justify these proposals. This strays from a recognizable Equinox ethos. As a business model it is short sighted, regressive and doomed to failure.

It has already had a catastrophic effect on current staff morale which management have acknowledged.

Senior management should as a priority seek to negotiate with the union. Management should work with the union to campaign for proper funding from commissioners
Resources need to be directed into increased training for frontline workers and management so service users and commissioners can be offered quality services.[ Indeed Equinox already offers some quality services at prices recognized by commissioners as reasonable.]

The attempt to compete with some of the more ruthless low cost service providers, however tempting in these difficult times, needs to be seen as a step which Equinox can not afford to take.


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