Social workers and occupational therapists working for South Gloucestershire Council are to strike from today (Tuesday), says UNISON.
Staff will walk out for three days from today until Thursday (4 to 6 April) after voting overwhelmingly* for industrial action in a dispute over pay.
UNISON has been in dispute with the local authority since last summer. This is over its decision to award staff in children’s services an additional temporary £3,000 payment on top of their basic annual salary, but not those doing the same job in adult services.
The extra money to retain staff reflects the challenges councils are facing in recruiting and keeping social workers, and UNISON says more staff should receive the supplement.
The union says figures** show a quarter of local authorities are now offering these “market-forces” supplements as many are facing significant problems attracting and keeping staff.
Adult social worker and UNISON steward Rachael Darbishire, who has worked for South Gloucestershire Council since 2020, said: “All my colleagues provide support and care in incredibly difficult conditions.
“I’m passionate about the important work we do, but this wage inequality makes me and my colleagues feel less valued. The challenges may be different, but we work just as hard. The council should pay us all the same.”
UNISON South West regional organiser Michael Sweetman said: “Strike action is always a last resort, but staff are determined to take a stand on this important issue.
“Negotiations last week were sadly unable to resolve the dispute. But only through talking will this issue be settled. The council must double its efforts to end the strike by paying up and showing it values all its social work employees.”
UNISON head of local government Mike Short said: “Social work is an extremely demanding job and councils everywhere are finding it difficult to attract and hold on to staff.
“If this employer is to tackle staffing problems and maintain safe and effective services, councillors should be making these payments to all social workers. Otherwise, experienced employees will simply up sticks and leave for workplaces offering better rates of pay.”
Note to editors:
–*A total of 94% of staff voted for strike action in the ballot. Picket lines will be outside the main council offices in Badminton Road, Yate BS37 5AF on each strike day from 7.30am to 10.30am and 2.30pm to 5.30pm.
–**The Local Government Association’s 2022 workforce survey showed 25% of local authorities are offering market-forces supplements. More than two thirds (71%) are experiencing recruitment challenges in adult social work, while more than half (57%) have retention difficulties.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.