Failure to implement equal pay deal limits staff salaries

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.

Only 5 per cent of councils 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 on work which involves front-line contact, difficult
working conditions, unsociable hours, specific skills and

Around 20 out of the 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 Employers’ Organisation, which represented councils
in negotiations with unions on the agreement, said cost and fear of
upheaval might be contributing to slow progress. She added that
councils were prioritising other initiatives such as Best

Vic Citarella, workforce consultant at the
Local Government Association, claimed that implementation was
difficult because local authorities had insufficient resources for
both pay rises and improving services.

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

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. Many in social care, although highly skilled,
are poorly paid and are traditionally done by women. Local
authorities could face pay-outs of thousands of pounds if the
current situation is challenged in court.

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

“We’re saying to councils: either put money in
now, or there’s an equal pay timebomb 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
were forced to cut other benefits to fund the process. “If councils
have to find other ways of making savings, then benefits will go,
such as 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, 65 per cent of employees
received pay increases, adding around £1 million to the
council’s wage bill. Prior to the job evaluation a qualified social
worker started on around £20,000. After the deal’s
implementation this figure rose to some £23,500. Those council
employees who received pay cuts had their salaries protected for
two years.

In north Lincolnshire unions are finalising a
pay deal 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.

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