Social workers in Southampton are striking today over the council’s pay cuts.
Here Vern Pitt reports live from the picket line, including interviews with those striking and senior officials, pictures of the protests and breaking developments. (Audio player may not appear in some browsers)
Our reporter Vern Pitt has just interviewed Royston Smith, leader of Southampton Council. News story to follow this afternoon.
Vern Pitt: Unison’s social worker members have gone into a meeting to discuss future strike action.
Southampton social worker: “It’s not a 5% pay cut, it’s more like 9% and I’m struggling”
Vern Pitt: Unions are calling for the leader of Southampton council to resign over pay cuts. Meanwhile Southampton foster carers pledge their support for the striking social workers.
Past strikes at Southampton
This is the first time that social workers have gone on strike following the coalition governments austerity measures, but it’s not the first time staff in Southampton have walked out.
In 2007 care staff went on strike over at protest over cuts to unsocial hours payments.
After that dispute the staff concerned got an uplift in their salaries to compensate for the loss of the payments. Plus, the plans were phased in over two years.
“Care workers have proved that low-paid part-time workers can fight back and defend their pay and conditions,” said Unison branch secretary Mike Tucker, at the time.
So there’s real hope that today’s strikes could make a difference.
Southampton social workers are from the only ones feeling the pinch in the current tough financial climate.
Shropshire – The Tory led council has told staff they must take a 5.4% pay cut or face the sack as it plans mass changes to staff’s terms and conditions.
Nottinghamshire - Social workers have begrudgingly accepted a cut in annual leave and the scrapping of their car allowances.
Derby Council – Cuts to care allowances were eventually forced through last year after unions accepted the establishment of a car pooling scheme and a one-off payment for members.
Vern is off to get the council’s perspective on the strike. Meanwhile the rally is about to begin.
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Southampton social worker: “We need solidarity against cuts”
Care manager: “Supplements for children’s workers are unfair”
Vern Pitt: There seems to be a lot of support from passers by here. Car horns are blaring.
Unison: “Council is cutting social workers pay while advertising for agency staff”
A brief history of the Southampton pay cut dispute
18 Feb – Southampton City council announces plans to slash £1,300 from social workers pay. Staff earning between £22,000 and £35,000 will receive a 4.5% pay cut in 2011-12, rising to 5% for those earning between £35,000 and £65,000, the council announced.
Registered social workers, who earn £30,000 a year on average nationally, according to research by Incomes Data Services, will see their pay packets reduced by £1,350.
The entire package will save the council more than £5m, which will contribute towards the overall savings target of £25m in 2011-12.
12 May – Social care workers vote to take industrial action over pay cuts.
23 May – Social care staff start working to rule in an indefinite protest at the pay cuts.
8 July – The council attempts to sooth the anger of social workers in childrens’ services with a one year market supplement of £1,400 each. The 140 social workers and team managers, who earn between £26,000 and £34,000, will still have their pay slashed by 4.5%, but they will now receive a market supplement of £1,400 a year – in effect, cancelling out the cuts.
22 July – The Tory-led council considers outsourcing all its adult social care provision.
It proposes setting up a trading company. The changes could affect 350 care staff.
28 July – Fifty childrens’ social workers say they plan to strike for a further six days, following today’s strike.
One sure fire set of winners from today’s strikes are agency social workers. They’re earning £230 today to cover the work of staff which are striking.
Pay cuts aren’t the only thing hurting social workers’ pockets right now. Many are also being squeezed by rising petrol prices and shrinking millage allowances.