Real social worker pay would be 22.5% down in a decade if ‘woeful’ offer were implemented, say unions

Social workers and other council staff offered 2% pay rise in April by employers, which unions warn will worsen real-terms pay fall for practitioners over past decade

pay key on keyboard
Photo: md3d/Fotolia

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.

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9 Responses to Real social worker pay would be 22.5% down in a decade if ‘woeful’ offer were implemented, say unions

  1. A Man Called Horse February 7, 2020 at 2:12 pm #

    Yes it is utterly unacceptable. This proposed 2% increase will not even cover my Council Tax & Housing Association rent increase. While cutting my pay for 10 years my Housing Association have increased my rent every year at a rate well above my pay rises. My rent if this continues will be unaffordable. My rent now taking £50% of my take-home pay. Back in 2010 my rent was taking 30% of take-home pay. The Government must fund a proper and decent pay rise, we cannot continue haaving our pay cut forever. Whatever increase we get we lose in inflation busting Council tax increases. Give a little with one hand and take more back with the other.

    • col February 8, 2020 at 4:49 am #

      So true..I only earn 150 pounds more a month than in 2010, crazy given the rate of inflation and the cost of my mortgage and council tax now. Something needs to be done..for too long the Government have relied on social worker’s goodwill to keep going and helping others in our role, at our personal expense emotionally and financially. When is the Gov going to recognize this struggle and the real.contribution social workers make, and pay us accordingly!!

  2. Len February 8, 2020 at 9:45 am #

    These conversations always centre on social workers, there is never any mention of the many other social care workers who have also had pay freezes for over ten years. A lot of social workers are agency workers and have used this too improve their salaries, by moving from job to job(whichever pays best), Permanent staff are unable to do this and have paid a heavier price for being loyal to local government.

    Managerial posts have had the same problem ( To many agency workers ) The people that are keeping wages down are the same peop,e that have just arrived on a new and exciting salary.

    These 2 posts have an ever rasing ceiling as far as salary goes and nobody wants to admit it.

  3. Sueily February 8, 2020 at 1:32 pm #

    I agree – totally unacceptable offer
    We have suffered for ten years + not just with pay
    But loss of support services where we spend more and more time on computers and less and less with clients
    Expensive admin with loss of time working to improve lives which impacts on more children in care-more complex damaged children in more dysfunctional families with little or no support
    Then when crisis arises everyone wonders why
    Always short of social workers not surprising lower pay and more stress and more caseload
    Social as a profession appears to be losing all respect which comes from the conservative government
    The ‘austerity ‘is all down to them-we need support and recognition but we are just heaped with more and more pi’s etc

  4. Simon Cardy February 9, 2020 at 10:02 am #

    This pay claim is not helped by the fact that some social workers believe, wrongly in my view, that it is in their interests to belong to a fringe Trade Union that has no seat or representation on the JNC (Joint National Committee). Their arguement is that UNISON, UNITE, GMB cannot represent social workers because social workers voice gets lost when competing with teaching assistants, care workers, cleaners, refuse collectors, environmental health officers etc. This is a failure to recognise that it is in not only social workers interests to belong to a Trade Union that has a seat on the national negotiating table but be part of a collective voice representing all local government workers. If all trade unions took the go-it-alone approach we’d wouldn’t even have the 2% offer (derisary as it is) let alone a national pay structure. So, if you are reading this and you are not in a Trade Union think about joining one as this we will be stronger with you and if you do join a Trade Union, join one where we can at least be represented on the JNC. If you are reading this and you belong to a fringe union enquire about partnership arrangements like the occupational therapists have.

    • Hilton Dawson February 10, 2020 at 9:58 am #

      Simon Cardy
      I led the negotiations which set up the Social Workers Union (SWU) & was its first General Secretary.
      A large part of the motivation was to attract social workers who weren’t in any trade union at all into a new union focussed on social workers & linked to their professional association. The rest of it was about ensuring that BASW members could be effectively represented if they were having difficulties in the workplace.
      The only opposition we experienced from anywhere at all was from Unison, supported at times by Unite. They effectively blocked our application to the TUC & to joint negotiating arrangements.
      The responsibility for their even being any ‘fringe union’ lies fully with giant unions who serve their own interests rather than that of working people.
      I suggest you direct your concerns about trade union solidarity to Unison & Unite – & see how far you get.
      In the meantime I’d urge social workers to join SWU, the bigger they are, the more influence they’ll have – & they won’t sell you out.

    • Tom J February 10, 2020 at 1:28 pm #

      Agreed. If you are in BASW you need to also be in Unison or Unite who can have that voice on pay.

  5. Not My Real Name February 10, 2020 at 8:55 am #

    Low pay already ahs a serious effect on levels of recruitment and retention, but is also starting to affect whether social care staff can do things like running a car. How anyone under 30 can afford to drive on the starting salary of a newly qualified social worker, let alone a care worker or non-qualified member of staff, is a bit of a mystery.

  6. B singh February 20, 2020 at 4:57 pm #

    Unions charge alot and this a disincentive they need to stop wasting money on gimmick offers and focus on recruiting people to represent there members and get back to the day job of focusing on terms and conditions including pay and health and safety.

    Unions should provide members with in formation about terms and conditions rather than sending out offers on hollidays and insurance.

    Social workers need to see a positive reason to join a union