Unison’s submissions to the Local Government Pay Commission make
sobering reading. The report focuses on social work, residential
care and domiciliary services, and the message comes across loud
and clear in all three: staff feel underpaid, overworked and
stressed. The fact that they are working unpaid overtime is
testament to their commitment. But employers can not exploit
staff’s professionalism indefinitely. Otherwise people are soon
going to be quitting in even greater numbers than they are already.
Surveys by the employers’ side have highlighted soaring vacancy
rates (among social workers in child protection these have now
reached 40 per cent in some areas).
Meanwhile only 28 per cent of social workers questioned by Unison
felt they received adequate training for their job. Yet as health
minister Jacqui Smith said herself: “It is only by ensuring the
quality of the workforce that we provide the quality of services
that vulnerable people need and deserve.” But how are standards
going to be raised unless employers invest in their staff and allow
them to acquire the skills to do their job properly?
According to Unison the local government pay system is in a mess.
While the NHS is striding ahead with pay modernisation for staff,
local government is still struggling to implement the “single
status” agreement that was meant to bring a more rational
In the Budget, Gordon Brown opened the door to more regional
variation in local government pay. But there’s a danger that local
authorities will end up competing against each other to attract
staff, merely shifting the shortages around the country. The Local
Government Pay Commission, when it finally reports in September,
needs to ensure we get a fairer pay deal for local government staff
across the board.
Health staff fought for an independent Pay Review Body in the
belief that it would raise wage levels for poorer paid staff like
nurses. It seems to have worked for them. Let’s hope the Pay
Commission achieves similar gains for local government staff.