Unions have rejected a “woeful” pay offer from councils, which they say would result in social worker pay being down 22.5% since 2009-10 in real terms.
Employers have offered a 2% rise from April for over one million staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland covered by the National Joint Council for local government services agreement.
This is well short of the claim of a £10-an-hour minimum wage for those at the bottom end plus a 10% hike for other staff, including social workers, by unions Unison, Unite and GMB.
Social worker pay down by a fifth
The 2% pay rise is in line with a two-year deal accepted by the unions for 2018-20, which followed a series of settlements since 2010 in which pay was either frozen or rises capped at 1% a year for all but the lowest paid.
The unions have said that this sequence has left the average social worker with pay 21.8% down in real terms – once inflation is taken into account – since 2009-10.
GMB said that the latest pay offer would deepen this pay fall for practitioners to 22.5%, with the unions’ preferred RPI measure of inflation currently running at 2.2%. The government’s official CPI inflation rate (which excludes changes in housing costs) is running at 1.4%.
‘More than disappointing’
“Today’s offer is more than disappointing,” said Unison head of local government Jon Richards. “It’s high time teaching assistants, care workers, librarians and park keepers were rewarded for their sterling efforts during the difficult decade of austerity.”
He said it was incumbent on government – which yesterday announced a local government finance settlement for 2020-21 that it said would allow authorities to increase budgets by 4.4% in 2020-21 – to give more funding to authorities so they could increase pay.
“The chancellor must give councils the cash in the budget to fund a proper pay rise,” he said. “Otherwise experienced staff will be lost as they seek better paid work elsewhere and there’ll be barely anyone left to deliver local services.”
The unions said they were seeking fresh talks with employers in order to improve the offer.