By Ian Onions, Political Editor
ANGRY homecare workers in Bristol had a showdown meeting with council leader Barbara Janke over fears they will lose their jobs.
They claim the Liberal Democrat- run council has broken promises over protecting the homecare service, which supports the elderly and the infirm so they can continue living in their own homes.
At a meeting in the Council House on Tuesday, Mrs Janke answered questions from them about their jobs and the future of the service.
A massive shake-up means it will be contracted out to a private firm instead of being run by the council.
More than three-quarters of the service is already privately run.
The homecare workers, many of whom are part-time, will staff a new city-wide dementia support team or be redeployed to other services such as taking posts in elderly people’s homes. They will also be given the option to take voluntary redundancy packages.
The union is claiming the council moved the goalposts last month by declaring that the remaining 20 per cent of the homecare service would be hived off to the private sector and therefore jobs would not be protected as promised.
Before Mrs Janke arrived, Steve Preddy, a regional officer with the union Unite, said: “The Liberal Democrats have behaved quite disgracefully over this.
“We were repeatedly told there were not going to be any job losses and there was nothing to worry about.
“But now they have gone back on their word and said the homecare service is to close.
“What has happened is a complete and utter con. We’ve simply been told bare-faced lies.
“Homecare workers and their clients face a future of instability and uncertainty.
“The Liberal Democrats are turning Bristol into a city that does not care.”
Mrs Janke said it was unlikely there would be any compulsory redundancies but said she could not give a cast-iron promise on this.
She said it was not in the council’s interests to dismiss experienced and valued staff because their skills were needed in other posts.
Social care director Alison Comley explained that people’s needs were changing and the council had to respond to this by providing the best care and support for them.
The homecare workers will be receiving “job packs” during the next few days to help them choose what alternative job they would like to do.
Mrs Janke said: “The Liberal Democrats do care about people in the city and we do listen.
“But we must transform some of our services in order to run them more efficiently and to meet the changing needs of the people we serve.”
She said homecare workers were highly valued and senior management staff would taking great care to look after them, as well as the vulnerable people they cared for.
Labour leader Peter Hammond, who attended the meeting, said: “The surprise moves by the Lib Dem administration in Bristol to close old people’s homes and day care centres have shown little respect for the city’s vulnerable old people – and the staff who serve them have equally been left in the dark by the council.”
Ms Comley said there had been no decisions about old people’s homes and a consultation exercise was expected to be held in the autumn.