Who are you?
- Bristol Care Workers Network is a group of healthcare and social care workers in the Bristol area. Bristol Care Workers Network fights against bosses and managers to get better rights, pay and terms for health and social care workers.
- We also fight for workers’ control. Workers’ control is sometimes called industrial democracy. Workers control means the rights of workers to run their own industries without interference from bosses, managers, bureaucrats and profit-makers. We believe that health and social care workers are the only people with the skills and knowledge to run healthcare services properly.
What do you do?
- We get together with our colleagues and other health and social care workers to fight for better pay and rights for healthcare workers. Sometimes we use already-existing trade unions to do this. Ideally, though, we try to build new workers’ organisations, run democratically by the workers themselves.
- We support health and care workers who have been ripped off or exploited by their managers, companies, or the government, to stand up for their rights.
- We spread the word about issues and campaigns in the health and social care industry. We educate people about their rights as workers. We offer help and advice to people who want to get organised at work.
- Where possible, we campaign using direct action, which means we use our own strength and skills to get things done, without relying on charities, political parties, the police, the courts, or vested interests, to help us.
Are you a union?
- Yes and no. We are a group of workers who stick together to fight against exploitation at work. We see ourselves as an alternative to bureaucratic, undemocratic trades unions, which often fail to help the workers who need them the most. We are different to mainstream unions because we are run democratically by workers, for workers. We don’t have any paid officers or union officials. We are more radical than most mainstream trades unions; we always put workers in charge and we never compromise or make deals with bosses unless the workers want us to. We are also revolutionary, because we want to see a world without bosses, corporations and politicians, whereas mainstream trades unions are reformist, because they are happy to work with bosses, corporations and politicians to get what they want. Our style of unionism is often called syndicalism, or solidarity unionism, rather than trades unionism.
- We are not a legally recognised trades union. Not being an official trade union has upsides and downsides. The downside of this is that we can’t represent workers in employment tribunals, and don’t enjoy the same friendly relationships with managers that some trades unions do. The upside is that we are not bound by the same bureaucracy and red tape that legally recognised unions have to stick to. This means we can be a lot more flexible than mainstream trades unions, and we can often work more quickly too as we don’t have to follow lots of long-winded procedures. We also help workers who aren’t our members, which most trades unions won’t do.
- Bristol Care Workers Network was founded by members of the Solidarity Federation-International Workers Association, a revolutionary union initiative which is active in the UK and across the world. We still have close links to the Solidarity Federation, and share lots of the same beliefs and ideas.