Experienced social workers have accused Cumbria Council of “devaluing” their role after being told they must accept pay cuts of about £3,000 or face the sack.
One child protection social worker told Community Care her salary would be reduced from £31,700 to £28,600 despite “the intensity of work going up”.
Cumbria is switching to a new pay scheme as part of the 1997 national single status agreement, which requires all local authorities to ensure staff are employed under equal terms and conditions. Pay rates will increase for the majority of staff, the council said.
Other proposals include removing the essential car user allowance, parking permits and recruitment and retention payments.
The changes are due to come into effect on 1 September after several years’ delay. Cumbria has proposed to protect for one year the pay of staff who will be worse off under the single status agreement.
The authority has issued section 188 redundancy notices informing unions of its intention to dismiss staff who have not signed the new contract. The council will then offer to re-employ them under the revised terms and conditions.
A Cumbria Council spokesperson said it was seeking agreement to the new terms and conditions from individual employees after negotiations towards a collective agreement failed.
The spokesperson added: “Alongside seeking agreement, the council will continue to take steps to get new contracts of employment in place for all staff from 1 September.”
Unison has threatened to take legal action against the council over its implementation of the single status pay scheme. Steve Stott, a regional manager for the union, said: “[The council’s] attempt to introduce single status has been hurried, done without proper thought, and it has a serious impact on two groups in particular: teaching assistants and social care staff.”
Stott estimated that the average pay cut in social services would be £3,000. “Social care staff are worried, frustrated and angry at the outcome,” he said.
The child protection worker, who qualified in 2005, said: “The intensity of work is going up but they want to take our salaries down.
“They have completely undervalued everything we’re involved in; they have devalued our role.”
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