Council proposes to reverse social worker pay cuts by April 2014

Details emerge about Southampton Council's offer to gradually reverse last year's staff pay cuts, starting with the lowest paid.

Southampton Council social workers earning up to £35,000 could see last year’s 4.5% pay cut fully reversed from April 2014, if the new Labour leadership’s proposal is accepted by union members.

Unite and Unison launched industrial and legal action against the then Conservative-led council in 2011 after it approved plans to dismiss all staff and offer them new employment contracts with revised terms and conditions and reduced pay. The move was designed to save £25m in 2011-12.

But when Labour won control of Southampton Council in May of this year, the new leadership began negotiating with unions to reverse the cuts.

The unions have now revealed details of the council’s proposals, which they will put to members between 14 September and 5 October.

Under the plans:

From 1 November 2012:

  • Full time equivalent staff earning between £17,500 and £22,000 will see last year’s 2% pay cut fully restored
  • Those earning £22,001 to £35,000 will receive a .45% restoration

From April 2013:

  • Those earning between £22,001 and £35,000 will receive a further 2.25% restoration

From April 2014:

  • Those earning between £22,000 and £35,000 will receive a further 1.8% restoration
  • Those earning between £35,000 and £65,000 will receive a 1.82% restoration

By April 2014, 3,460 of the 4000 people affected by the pay cuts would have had their pay restored.

Unison and Unite have agreed to suspend their legal action and the ongoing industrial dispute with the council while the ballot is carried out. They are recommending that their members accept the offer.

Mark Wood, Unite’s convenor at the council, said:  “We stated all along that this dispute would only be resolved by negotiation and agreement. We are very pleased with the way negotiations have been conducted since May and are hopeful of a positive outcome in the forthcoming member consultation and ballot.”

The council has also proposed to make compensation payments to staff made redundant as a result of the 2011-12 council budget.

Existing market supplements for children’s social workers will remain in place, subject to a pre-planned review – and the council has agreed to consider extending this offer to other posts.

“The deal which we have put together with the unions will be a real boost for morale and staff retention and shows just what can be achieved when councils are prepared to engage with their staff,” said Simon Letts, Southampton Council’s cabinet member for resources.

Unison and Unite will hold meetings to explain the council’s offer to its members between 5 and 14 September.

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