Social services staff underpaid and overworked, says union

Three recent surveys by public sector union Unison reveal that
more than 80 per cent of social workers, senior care workers, home
care workers and residential care assistants and three-quarters of
residential social workers believe their rate of pay is unfair.
Also three-quarters of social workers regularly work more hours
than they are paid for, and believe they are inadequately trained
for their job.

Unison’s head of local government Heather Wakefield said:
“They are all underpaid, they are all undervalued, there are
massive recruitment and retention problems, yet they are all key to
delivering critical parts of the government’s agenda.”

The surveys were carried out to support Union’s
submissions to the Local Government Pay Commission. Higher basic
pay levels and an end to unequal pay – requested by 83 and 50 per
cent of the 400 respondents respectively – are the main issues
social workers want to stress to the commission.

Wakefield predicts a crisis if this issue is not addressed
shortly, as staff are lured to retail or service sector jobs,
offering better pay and less stress.

In response to the employers evidence to the commission, Unison
warned that local pay bargaining would adversely effect women
workers and consign even more to low pay. Pegging wages to local
conditions would lead to the erosion of wages and conditions as
have happened to home care workers who have been privatised.

The union also pointed out that more than half of its members
surveyed already work unpaid overtime. Unpaid overtime was a
particular problem among low paid staff such as teaching
assistants, nursery nurses, school secretaries, librarians and
social workers.

Wakefield said that the most common reason was because
contractual hours were to short and that the “9 to 5 culture has
long since disappeared”.

The GMB union in its submission to the commission also pointed
out the discriminatory effect of local pay on women workers. It
said that in other areas of government, such as the civil service,
there has been a move towards national pay rates to tackle the
gender bias. Local pay structures would do nothing to combat
recruitment and retention difficulties caused by low pay.

John Edmonds, general secretary of the GMB, said: “Breaking up
national pay bargaining will drive down pay and increase
recruitment and retention problems in local government. This move
would be costly and bureaucratic as well as increasing problems
such as equal pay and respect for part time workers. The Pay
Commission should dismiss the employer’s weak evidence and
question their political motives.”

More on the Pay Commission at

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