Southampton Council is offering £230 a day to agency social workers while slashing pay for permanent staff by up to 5.5%.
Unison has branded as “madness” the authority’s decision to recruit eight child protection social workers and two senior practitioners temporarily while staff are taking industrial action against the cuts.
Southampton announced in February that it would cut by up to 5.5% pay for all but the lowest paid staff. Some 2,600 Unison and Unite members voted in May to work to rule in protest at the cuts, which could cut social workers’ pay packets by up to £1,500 a year.
Since 23 May, social workers have been among those taking industrial action, including an overtime ban, not covering for vacant posts and refusing to use their private cars for work. Other members of staff, including refuse collectors, went on strike.
The council’s offer to employ agency social workers on a flat rate of £230 a day was leaked to Unison by email. Senior practitioners will receive £250, the email said.
Southampton’s directly-employed social workers are paid between £26,000 and £38,000 a year, depending on experience, about £100-£145 a day.
Andy Straker, Unison’s regional organiser, said: “This is madness: the council is forcing experienced social workers to leave because it is cutting their pay, and then paying self-employed social workers up to double what it pays its own staff.”
But Jeremy Moulton, cabinet member for children’s services and learning in Southampton, said the council was recruiting a small team of experienced social workers to address a staff shortage in children’s services.
“We make no apologies for putting child safety first in this instance. We will not take risks with vulnerable children,” he said.
“With the current work-to-rule conditions imposed by the unions, many of our staff cannot cover for vacancies, as well as other duties. We would call on unions to make sure working to rule does not impact upon the safety of our children.”
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