Council social workers are receiving a 1.75% pay increase this month, back paid from April last year, after unions agreed a deal with employers.
The rise constitutes a real-terms pay cut with the government’s preferred measure of inflation – the consumer prices index – having risen from 1.5% in April last year to 5.5% in January 2022 and further rises baked in.
After protracted negotiations over unions’ 10% pay claim, UNISON and GMB accepted the offer from representatives of councils across England, Wales and Northern Ireland to 1.5 million local authority employees – including social workers.
The third union, Unite, which said it had no social worker members, continues to reject the offer, and will now stage industrial action this month in a continued campaign for the 10% uplift.
However, the negotiations only required two of the three unions to agree to the deal, so all local government staff will now receive the 1.75% increase. Some social care staff may benefit from a 2.75% rise, applied only to those on the lowest NJC pay point, earning £17,842 per year in 2020-21.
Deal ‘falls well short of what staff need’
UNISON, which has around 40,000 social worker members, said the 1.75% rise “falls well short of what [staff] need to keep up with rising prices” but that it was keen to avoid delaying back payments any further.
GMB, which represents around 5,000 social workers, said it wanted to ensure councils made the back payment this month so that it was not subject to the 1.25 percentage point rise in national insurance from April.
A pay increase for local government employees in Scotland was agreed towards the end of 2021, backdated to January 2021.
Those earning less than £25,000 annually received an £850 increase, those on £25,000-£40,000 got a 2% rise, those on £40,000-£80,000 received a 1% increase and those on more than £80,000 received a £800 rise.
Unions to press for ‘inflation-busting’ rise
Attention now turns to the 2022-23 pay round, with the Bank of England having predicted, in February, that inflation will top 7% in the spring, including because of the energy price cap rise of £693 (54%) coming into force next month.
This prediction was made before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which economists predict will further increase price rises.
GMB said it would now consult members on their pay aspirations for 2022-23, taking into consideration the inflation spike.
“Government and your employers need to understand that you simply can’t be expected to accept further below inflation pay awards and we will need to send a message that unless they table a decent rise, our members will not accept it,” GMB said in a statement.
UNISON head of local government Mike Short said: “With the cost of living on an upwards spiral, the focus will now be on pushing for an inflation-busting rise for 2022.”