Pay increases bypass social workers

Social workers and other care staff are losing out on pay
increases because local authorities are stalling on a national job
agreement drawn up four years ago by unions, writes
Gideon Burrows

Only five per cent of local authorities have implemented the
single status agreement, which requires employers to evaluate jobs
and re-grade pay accordingly.

Social care professionals are set to benefit from the agreement
because most methods of job evaluation set a high value to work
which involves front line contact, difficult working conditions,
unsociable hours, specific skills and knowledge.

Approximately 20 out of 410 local authorities have implemented
the scheme, with some 200 still in the process of doing so.

Lesley Skinner, head of local government services at the
Employer’s Organisation, which represented local authorities
in negotiations with unions on the agreement, said cost and the
fear of upheaval might be contributing to slow progress. She added
that local authorities were prioritising other initiatives like
Best Value.

Vic Citarella, workforce consultant at the Local Government
Association, claimed implementation was difficult because local
authorities have insufficient resources for both pay rises and
providing a good service.

“The outcome will be either more money and less service, or
greater cost on the national purse; or it could lead to more
outsourcing and potentially greater privatisation,” he said.

Unison has threatened to bring equal pay claims against local
authorities that do not begin the process soon. The single status
agreement sought to tackle pay differences between jobs requiring
comparable levels of skill or knowledge in local authorities. Jobs
such as social care, though highly skilled, are low paid and are
traditionally done by women. Local authorities could face pay outs
of thousands of pounds if the current situation is challenged in

Unison’s head of local government, Malcom Wing, said when
the agreement was drawn up there was a recognition that if it was
not implemented quickly, local authorities would face equal pay

“We’re saying to local government: either put money in
now, or there’s an equal pay time bomb waiting to go off,” he

But Ian Johnston, director of the British Association of Social
Workers, said some members felt they would not get better
conditions out of single status. He said councils are forced to cut
other benefits to fund the process.

“If councils have to find other ways of making savings, then
benefits will go like overtime,” he said.

East Riding council in Yorkshire was one of the first local
authorities to implement single status evaluation, finishing the
process last summer.

According to Chris Jenkinson, unison’s regional officer
for north-east Yorkshire, sixty five per cent of employees got pay
increases, adding around £1m to the council’s wage bill.
Those who received pay cuts had their salaries protected for two
years. In north Lincolnshire unions are currently finalising a pay
agreement with the council which will see 34 per cent of workers
receive increases.

But implementation in north-east Lincolnshire was less
successful. One hundred workers staged a one-day strike in June
after job evaluation resulted in pay cuts of up to £6,000 for
some, and no salary protection was offered. The council has been
forced to withdraw the offer and restart negotiations with




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