A union leader has said only a small number of local government members working with the most vulnerable service users will be exempted from the planned two-day pay strike next week.
Heather Wakefield, head of local government at Unison, the UK’s biggest public sector union, said members would only be granted exemption if going on strike threatened the “life and limb” of service users.
“If a client’s health and safety depends on our member they will be exempt but the criteria will be very strict.”
Union members who may suffer “long-term financial loss” from strike action – employees in their final year of service or pregnant woman who have notified their employer of their birth date – will also be allowed to work during the strike, under Unison guidelines.
Wakefield declined to specify which categories of social care staff are most likely to be exempted from the pay strike on 16 and 17 July.
Local authority staff from Unison and Unite last month voted to strike after rejecting employers’ offer of a 2.45% pay increase. Unions said the pay offer was a “pay cut in real terms” because inflation was now 4.3%.
Union officials are holding local negotiations with councils about strike exemptions. A Unison guide on strike action says employers need to request strike exemptions, although the union “should not normally exempt members we have balloted”.
Strike exemptions will be granted by Unison regional secretaries.
A spokesman for Local Government Employers said it expected turnout for the strike to be less than the teachers’ strike in April, which was estimated at around 70-80%.