Council social workers face a third consecutive annual pay freeze after employers yesterday announced staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland would receive no increase for 2012-13.
The move sparked anger from social work representatives and unions, after it was revealed this week that pay freezes in 2010-11 and 2011-12 had led to a headline real terms pay cut of 13% for council staff from 2009-12.
Social workers would respond by leaving local authority practice to work for better-paying agencies, claimed British Association of Social Workers chief executive Hilton Dawson.
“This pay freeze will not provide any real savings," he said. "Social workers who can't make ends meet are simply going to work for agencies, who offer better rates of pay and re-charge this to local authorities who have to provide vital services."
Unison slammed the fact that, for the second year running, council bosses had not offered a £250 increase to the lowest paid staff, including many social care workers, contrary to government promises.
When chancellor George Osborne announced a public sector pay freeze for 2011-13, he pledged that those earning less than £21,000 would receive a £250 increase in each year.
"This cannot go on – councils do have other choices such as increasing council tax, or using their considerable reserves," said Unison head of local government Heather Wakefield. "The employers must think again, and at the very least come through with the £250 minimum increase for the lowest paid.”
However, Local Government Association head of workforce Sarah Messenger said: "A combination of rising costs and shrinking local government funding means councils were left with little choice. Increasing pay would mean more job losses and cuts to the services people need.
“Today’s announcement represents an unprecedented third consecutive year of pay freeze and we recognise the frustration which will be felt by the workforce. While the financial outlook for councils is bleak, we are keen to begin discussions with the unions on a package of reform of pay and conditions that may enable us to avoid a fourth year of pay freeze in 2013.”
Council social workers' real pay down 13% in three years