The first strike at private care homes in Scotland has begun as staff accuse managers of attacking their pay and conditions.

Industrial action at three homes in Glasgow got under way this morning with workers claiming bosses failed to act to prevent the walkout - despite the intervention of First Minister Humza Yousaf.

Mr Yousaf says he had written to Minster Care Group urging them to step in and avert the protest at the homes in Baillieston, Stobhill and Cardonald, which falls within his own constituency.

The firm however claims it has received no written correspondence from the First Minister and says it has attempted to resolve matters through discussions with GMB - and "remains open" to further dialogue.

GMB Scotland members overwhelmingly backed today's walkout after accusing the firm of also trying to derecognise the trade union.

Glasgow Times: Strike at care homes are under wayStrike at care homes are under way (Image: Robert Perry)

Picket lines formed outside the homes this morning on the first of two consecutive days of strike action.

Staff say that they have taken steps to minimise disruption to residents as GMB Scotland accused the owners of causing needless uncertainty.

One worker, who asked to remain anonymous, said: "Nobody wanted this, but we had to send a message to management.

"We care deeply about the residents and our jobs, but we are unwillling to allow our pay and conditions to be further eroded. It was time to make a stand."

The row erupted after around 200 workers employed at the three homes rejected a 'derisory' pay offer from bosses, as well as alleging that overtime rates had been slashed.

READ MORE: Fury as pay row erupts between staff and care home bosses

Kirsty Nimmo, GMB Scotland organiser, said: “Staff at these homes do not want to be standing outside them fighting to protect their pay and conditions.

“They want to be inside, caring for the residents like they do every day of their working lives. However the actions of the homes’ owners have forced them into this unprecedented industrial action."

Glasgow Times: Workers waved placardsWorkers waved placards (Image: Robert Perry)

Ms Nimmo insisted that repeated attempts to reach a resolution with owners were met with a wall of negativity.

She added: “We tried to resolve this dispute again and again but the company has never been serious about engaging with its staff and clearly had no intention of making a serious offer to avert this strike.

“Our hearts are with the residents and their relatives, but our members must also think about their own families.

“All they are asking for is fairness. All they want is to be treated with decency and respect.”

The industrial action comes despite an appeal by Yousaf, who is ward MSP for Glasgow Pollok. He wrote to Mahesh Patel, chief executive of Minster, paying tribute to staff at the homes while urging action to resolve the dispute.

His letter said: “Social care workers provide a vital service. Their work providing personal care and social support to residents is essential to the running of care homes that are rooted in compassion.”

The SNP MSP, who took credit for averting threatened NHS strikes when health secretary, also voiced concern about the threat to derecognise the GMB.

He wrote: “My own relationship with trade unions has been positive and constructive.

“Even where there have been disagreements, my approach has been to always continue constructive dialogue to try and find a solution.

“I hope you can offer reassurances that this will be your approach going forward.”

The homes, where 150 residents are cared for by 200 staff, were previously run by the Four Seasons group before being taken over by Silverline and are now administered on their behalf by the Minster Care Group.

Glasgow Times: Workers lined the streetsWorkers lined the streets (Image: Robert Perry)

The GMB balloted more than 100 staff with the majority backing action.

A spokesperson for Silverline said: “The welfare of residents is paramount and contingency measures are in place to ensure the continuation of quality care at each of the homes during the strike action.  

“The previous management team attempted, without success, to engage with the GMB to agree matters in relation to staff wages prior to our involvement, including the proposal to alter overtime pay arrangements.  

“We met the GMB at the offices of ACAS in July and explained that, while we wanted all care teams to be paid more, the trading situation of the homes means this is impossible and the alternative is that the company goes into insolvency.  

“Our proposal for wage rates (which has been implemented) increased the lowest rate for care staff above both the rates required by the National Care Home Contract and also the National Living Wage, plus an improved overtime offering. There is no contractual obligation for staff to work overtime, or to be paid overtime at enhanced rates.  

“GMB representatives at the meeting failed to respect or accept our explanations of the financial situation and merely repeated demands for a minimum rate of £15 per hour, way in excess of the National Contract requirements. We therefore parted having not reached agreement.  

“We have noted the First Minister’s comments in his press statement and look forward to receiving his letter, as well any assistance he can offer. The pay rates we have implemented are directly linked to what operators receive in fee rates set out in the National Care Home Contract.

“If it is no longer deemed appropriate then the First Minister and his colleagues at the Scottish Government have the power to increase fees to operators and this will enable staff to be paid more.”