Birmingham care workers have announced 14 days of strike action over council plans to make all their jobs part-time.
The 286 staff from the city's enablement service were told this week they could only work up to 22 hours a week under an overhaul unveiled by social care bosses.
The council claims the therapy service, which helps mainly elderly people back on their feet and regain their independence after a hospital visit, is inefficient with a lot of downtime between home visits for staff.
But the Unison union says 60 per cent of the staff, who are mainly women, currently work over 30 hours a week and will either lose hours and pay or have to move job or take redundancy.
As well as leaving staff out of pocket, Unison claims the new shifts are too variable, with alternate days making it almost impossible to make up hours with a second job or arrange regular baby sitters for children.
Unison senior steward and enablement assistant Mandy Buckley said: “These latest proposals by the council are completely unacceptable.
"Most of the staff have been with the service for many years caring for the most vulnerable people in our city, we don’t earn high wages but we love the job we do.
"The race to the bottom in the care sector has to end.
"The private sector care more about profits than caring for those that need it.
"We are fighting for the very future of our service and we know the public support us as its their service being cut”
The union has now announced 14 days of strike action spread over six weeks.
It has been in dispute with the council over changes to the service since late last year.
An earlier proposal to work three shifts in one day was ditched as untenable.
The city council hopes to save about £2 million from the changes, on top of savings already made, through both cuts in hours and more efficient working.
It said that presently only 20 per cent of people were fully 'enabled' after receiving the care and that other councils achieved rates of 90 per cent.
Labour cabinet member for health Paulette Hamilton said: "The aim is to provide a better quality of service and make life better for our service users.
"At the moment they can see 15 different carers a week, now they will see a key carer and a small team."
The proposals have received support from the trust which runs the Queen Elizabeth, Heartlands, Good Hope and Solihull hospitals.
The service allows patients to return home with support rather than wait in hospital beds.
A spokesman for the hospital said: “Plans to better support older people in Birmingham to continue to live at home are vital in avoiding those long delayed transfers of care experienced by some patients across our hospitals.
“Alongside the introduction of a therapy-led discharge from hospital that will help to build the confidence of our older patients who may not feel they can manage at home, enhanced support and enablement for residents in their own homes will unquestionably support the NHS across the city to make acute hospital beds available more quickly to patients with acute clinical need - whilst providing better outcomes and improved experiences of care for residents.”
What is an enablement service?
Enablement is a service which helps people to do more for themselves at home, by learning or re-learning skills that make you feel safe and happy in your own home. It is similar to an occupational therapy service at work.
The service offers short term support, usually for up to six weeks, that aims to encourage and enable people to lead as independent and fulfilling a life as they can.