Social workers protest against removal of pay-boosting market supplements

Unison has attacked Windsor and Maidenhead over its plans to change staff terms and conditions, but the council says it must make difficult decisions in order to balance the books.

Social workers at Windsor and Maidenhead council are “deeply unhappy” about proposals to effectively reduce their pay by removing market supplements and scrap car allowances for those who do not work on a 24-hour service, according to Unison.

The Berkshire authority has confirmed it is reviewing some supplements, including the £2,000 market premium currently paid out to social workers, and will make a decision about whether they are necessary in February.

Children’s social workers were also in receipt of an annual “golden handcuffs” payment of £3,000, but this was a three-year agreement that came to an end in December 2012.

“Our social workers are concerned,” said Bridget Herd, Unison’s regional organiser for the area. “A number are deeply unhappy, because it will make a big financial difference to them. Now there is a disincentive to work for Windsor and Maidenhead.”

The council plans to introduce the other changes to its terms and conditions by dismissing staff and re-engaging them on new contracts on 1 February.

It will remove the lump sum allowance of £753 paid out to certain car users and instead pay only a mileage rate. Some social workers in the 24-hour short term support and rehabilitation service will retain the allowance.

Those employees who are members of Unison, including some social workers, have already held one protest against the planned changes to their contracts and will hold another soon, according to Herd. However, they do not intend to strike.

Writing to local paper the Royal Borough Observer last week, one social worker expressed fears of a “mass exodus” from the council if it goes ahead with the new contracts and the “detrimental impact” this would have on services.

But a spokesperson for Windsor and Maidenhead said: “The council does not envisage a mass exodus of social worker staff nor any decrease in the capability of continuing to provide a quality service and standard of care to residents.

“We continue to have a healthy number of applicants for social work jobs.”

Herd said she thought most social workers at the council would sign the new contracts, because they are not in a financial position to walk away from their jobs.

But she said the process had damaged morale among the staff, particularly at a time when middle-earners, such as social workers, have been subject to a pay freeze.

The spokesperson replied: “Local authorities are having to make difficult decisions to balance their books and the majority of public sector workers have been subject to a pay freeze.

“The council is seeking to rationalise the pay and benefits it offers its staff whilst still maintaining itself as an attractive employer.”

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