Care workers and other staff at Southampton Council have voted to take industrial action over the authority’s decision to introduce pay cuts of up to 5.5%.
Unite and Unison balloted their members after the authority announced the majority of Southampton’s 4,300-strong workforce would have to accept the cuts, which vary depending on salaries, or face dismissal.
Under the plans, employees earning less than £17,500 would be protected from cuts and those earning less than £21,000 would receive a £250 flat pay rise. But the Conservative-controlled council’s 140 registered social workers, on estimated average earnings of £30,000 a year, would see their pay packets reduced by £1,350.
Unions responded angrily to the proposals, claiming the council had not carried out a proper consultation.
A majority of Unite and Unison’s members at the council this week voted in favour of industrial action short of strike (85% and 78% respectively). Just over half voted for all-out strike action.
The unions will jointly decide on what action to take and when within the next week.
Unison represents 1,000 social care staff at the council. Mike Tucker, branch secretary, said the results of the ballot demonstrated staff were “standing up to the council’s mass sackings and impositions of savage wage cuts”.
Mark Wood, Unite’s conveyor at the council, added: “We appreciate that the city faces tough financial times, but our members also face soaring household and utility bills and a huge hit to their pay packets.”
He said Unite would be willing to hold crisis talks with the council to avoid a “potentially very damaging dispute”.
But Southampton Council rejected the offer. The authority’s leader, Royston Smith, said he was “disappointed” at the latest development.
He added: “If the unions were genuinely interested in representing their members’ interests then they should understand that we are trying to save staff jobs and the services those jobs provide.
“The stark reality is that without making changes to staff terms and conditions we would lose a further 400 jobs over the next two years.
“That would equate to dozens of frontline services that our residents rely on being axed. I cannot and will not allow that to happen.”
What do you think? Join the debate on CareSpace
Keep up to date with the latest developments in social care. Sign up to our daily and weekly emails