Staff to strike in Surrey over pay

Social services staff were due to join colleagues at Surrey Council in a one-day strike over pay today, which could set the tone for nationwide clashes next year.

The walkout comes amid a work-to- rule by the council’s approved social workers, which began on Monday, over excessive workloads and understaffing. Approved social workers were also due to join the strike over pay.

Surrey, which sets its pay locally, offered staff 2 per cent in 2006-7 and 2007-8 in line with calls from chancellor Gordon Brown. However, this is below Unison’s claim of 4 per cent and inflation of more than 3 per cent.

Early next year, local government employers will negotiate a national pay deal with unions to cover most councils, which seems likely to follow the same pattern.

 While Unison described the offer as “woefully inadequate”, Surrey chief executive Richard Shaw said  it   was the maximum affordable “in view of firm government guidance and reduced funding”.

 Unison said ASWs in Surrey were at “breaking point” with just 35 employed to cover a workload which should be covered by 72 staff. It is calling for a £3,000 one-off payment to compensate staff for overwork and future overtime pay.

The council admitted there was a recruitment and retention problem with ASWs but said it had offered staff time off in lieu and some backdated overtime payments.

The two sides were in dispute over the impact of any action. Unison claimed all but one of the ASWs were union members,  while the council said “a significant number” were not and would continue to work.

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