Social workers return to work following impromptu strike

Practitioners call off strike after worker suspended for refusing to take on additional case is reinstated.

Social workers who went on an impromptu strike in Glasgow following the suspension of one of their colleagues went back to work today.

About 80 social workers and administration employees, who work in the homelessness department at Glasgow City Council, yesterday joined the action of 10 other employees.

However, the council warned staff that the strike was unauthorised and those involved were liable to be dismissed if it continued. It also threatened to seek damages from Unison if it did not formally repudiate the strike.

A council spokesperson admitted social workers in the homelessness team had taken out a grievance against the council three months ago over high caseloads and job cuts, particularly in Glasgow’s East End.

However, the matter escalated when, during the grievance process, the council restructured local boundaries, which made the East End even larger. Last week managers asked a social worker to take on the case of a 16-year-old homeless teenager who came from the new part of the East End. In talks with unions it had been agreed that managers would take on this work in the short term. When the case worker refused to deal with the case, the council suspended him.

In a letter to all staff David Williams, executive director of social work said: “The department cannot have a situation where a member of staff refuses to see a client who presents. I have been assured by Unison that they share this view.”

“However, when management met with Unison on the 13 September, and in an attempt to calm the situation down, it was made very clear that no disciplinary action would be taken against that member of staff. I have now instructed that the suspension be lifted.”

Unison branch secretary for Glasgow Brian Smith said that, as a result of the lifting of the suspension, staff had agreed to go back to work today and see what proposals the council came up with over reducing caseloads.

“It was completely spontaneous action by the staff and if I’m honest I think it rattled the council a bit. Certainly they seem serious about finding solutions to the high caseloads now so we just have to wait and see the detail of what they propose.”

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