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Housing, community, and mental health support workers at the mental health charity Touchstone in Leeds have taken 3 days of strike action against draconian pay cuts, including 2 days in a row between Thursday 26th May and Friday 27th May.

Ian Pattison, Leeds City Socialist Party

Senior management at Touchstone set up Job Evaluation Panels which cost around £12,000-£13,000 to examine whether Touchstone wages were in line with the local market rate, with management promising to abide by the outcome. The Panels reported that existing pay rates were correct, but Senior Management has ignored the results. Instead they have decided that frontline staff are underworked and overpaid are a trying to force through pay cuts of between £2,000 and £4,000. At the same time, Senior Management at Touchstone has taken a pay rise!

The Unison branch has made it absolutely clear that there cuts are opportunistic, and not a response to any budget cuts. Touchstone’s Chief Executive, Alison Lowe (a Labour councillor that has voted for cuts in the council chamber) has said she would make pay cuts no matter the what financial situation was. These cuts show how little Senior Management and the Leeds City Labour Council value the voluntary sector.

Touchstone and other support workers provide vital support to some of the most vulnerable people in society, which is likely to suffer if these cuts are forced through, as skilled and experienced workers are forced out of work.

Strikes against similar attacks have already taken place in Leeds. Housing support workers at Leeds Federated Housing have already taken 6 days of strike action against pay cuts of between £3,000 and £8,000. Management at Leeds Fed had also awarded themselves pay rises, while cutting the pay of hardworking frontline staff. Workers in Leeds at Community Links and Foundation Housing are also in dispute over similar issues. Leeds City Unison should ballot all support workers in Leeds facing pay cuts, and coordinate strike action across the sector.