Brendan Barber, General Secretary of the TUC launched the march with some carefully chosen words of support and encouragement. Later, at the Rally in Easton Community Centre, our senior steward Allison Fitton read out messages of support from Care workers in America. Other speakers were Busharat Ali (Labour Candidiate for Lawrence Hill), Feruk Choudhury (Labour Candidate for Easton), Paulette North (Respect Candidate for Easton) and Paul Smith (prospective Labour MP for Bristol West). However, Stephanie Weston left many of us with tears in our eyes as she gave this speech:
Every one of us carries enormous responsibilities, with pride.
We never know what we are going to come across when we start each shift. Anything could happen, and it’s down to us to sort out the crises and stay calm when others are frightened.
The people we care for are society’s hidden people. They are not customers; they are individuals who need our care. We are proud to help them to live in their own homes and support them in maintaining their dignity, pride, beliefs and independence.
If our service users are worried about anything
They talk to us
They trust us
They confide in us
And they do that because we are the friendly familiar face they see day after day and they feel secure in the fact we are part of the council and can be trusted.
People don’t trust the private sector because they know they are in it for profit. Homecare is a critically important service. We know that it should not be sold off at public action to the cheapest bidder. It is absolutely wrong that the most vulnerable members of our society should be paying the price for the council's finance problems.
If they want to cut costs then the council should start by saving the £800,000 per year that private agencies overcharge them.
Many of our service users have paid their taxes and national insurance all their lives. Most pay towards the cost of their care. And yet the council failed to consult them about the proposals to privatize a service which is a lifeline to many.
Perhaps it was an oversight
Perhaps they just didn’t care
Well we care!
The Councils plans are:
Shame on you Bristol City Council!
We are a voice for our service users and we will be heard. We will stand shoulder to shoulder with them, their families and the people of Bristol’s communities, who know the difference between right and wrong.
Councillor Keily has grabbed the headlines in today’s Evening Post offering us the chance to bid for running the Homecare business ourselves. He says it means we Home Care workers can all share in the profits.
Councillor Keily, we don’t want profits, we want decent jobs and high quality care. No one should make a profit out of care!
The Council should not underestimate our commitment to our service users. We are going to fight this privatization.
We have massive public support
We have press support.
To my fellow Home Care workers I say:
For us to win this
Means we all must hold our heads up high
for what we do
for who we are
And how special our service is.
Don’t lose sight of it . . .
We are the women who do a job most people are not cut out to do, we are the women that most service users trust. We are the women who will not be silenced, bullied or appeased. We must Stand together and take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that the future of Home Care
Is not as a private service but a public service where the care comes before the profit.