UNISON Northern Ireland

NIC ICTU - Unions stand by staff and residents at Court Care Home

Unions representing unpaid and distressed workers at Court Care Home in Ballymoney received the full support of every union across Northern Ireland today. NIC-ICTU’s affiliated unions were briefed earlier today by the trade unions GMB and Unison who represent 50 staff at the Ballymoney care home which is being closed this friday by the Regulatory and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA), after extraordinary revelations about the funding scheme known as ‘invest in rooms’ (link to BBC story: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-58789358 )

Rooms at The Court Care Home, which has 40 rooms in total, have been offered as buy-to-let investments for between £71,950 and £75,000 each. An online brochure assured buyers they would receive a 10% rental income every year for 25 years, with an option to sell the unit back after five years at 110%.

The trade unions now demand a series of measures to firstly alleviate the shocking treatment of both staff and residents as a matter of urgency, and then to ensure that nothing of this nature should be allowed to occur again in our care sector.

The first demand is that the employer pays in full the wages of staff for the work they completed in September, and do so immediately. The workers faced receiving no salary whatsoever initially and were today only paid 60% of their wages as a result of interventions by their unions, who are determined to pursue the full amount for each member of staff.

If not, to add insult to injury, claiming for unemployment benefits will be even more complicated, delaying restitution to already distressed workers who have bills to pay now.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

The immediate solution is that those dedicated carers are employed directly by the Northern Health Trust.

As for other people being treated as collateral damage, the unions are demanding to know what protection exists and can be enforced for the 27 residents and other special support workers as a result of the forced move.

Finally, unions are demanding that Minister Swann initiates an inquiry into such investment practices and that the RQIA makes it an issue on granting licenses to operate care homes.

ICTU Assistant General Secretary Owen Reidy stated that “the people we employ to look after our vulnerable citizens are already underpaid and undervalued, despite the plaudits pontificated about essential workers during the Covid pandemic. It is an outrage that people get treated this way so some distant investors can turn an easy profit from an essential public service.

“Workers and residents are not passive collateral damage in some unseemly opportunity in what the investment brochure calls ‘a rapidly growing market, with high and steadily growing demand’. These are people with rights and this movement will not be found wanting when it comes to defending and enforcing their rights.”