Social workers could be called out on strike action after Unison rejected “derisory” pay offers from councils made to staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The biggest local government union, which represents an estimated 40,000 social workers across the UK, said it intended to consult members over industrial action after rejecting both of two offers put forward by council representatives.
Local Government Employers’ preferred option is for a 1% pay rise for all staff, but with changes to terms and conditions including mileage rates, arbitration processes, and continuous service provision. The second option was for a ‘no-strings’ offer of a 1% increase for lower-paid staff and a 0.6% increase for those earning moderate and higher wages such as social workers.
“It is unclear where the employers have got their mandate for this derisory offer,” said Heather Wakefield, head of local government at Unison.” “Many [councils] have publicly supported a no-strings 1% increase in line with government public sector pay policy. Councils not covered by the [national bargaining agreement] are paying at least 1% this year. Why middle earners like nursery nurses, social workers, customer service staff and engineers should be punished with a 0.6% offer is a mystery.”
She said following the pay-freeze imposed on council workers over the last three years pay had declined for council workers by 15% in real terms. Terms and conditions such as car allowances, overtime and redundancy pay had also been slashed in some councils.
“After three-years of no pay increase at all, enough really is enough,” she said. “We hope the employers see sense and make an improved offer.”
The other major trade unions, GMB and Unite, are meeting over the next week to decide their response.