Council social workers given 1.75% pay rise after unions agree terms

Back-paid deal for 2021-22 constitutes real-terms pay cut as unions vow to push for 2022-23 award that reflects inflation spike

Image of payroll file and calculator (credit: vinnstock / Adobe Stock)
(credit: vinnstock / Adobe Stock)

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

The deal comes with workforce pressures in social work deepening in England, where vacancies and turnover rose last year for councils across both children’s and adults’ services.

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.”

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47 Responses to Council social workers given 1.75% pay rise after unions agree terms

  1. Paul Morris March 8, 2022 at 1:17 pm #

    This is a disgrace for social workers and even nhs staff. MPs recently agreed a £2500 rise as they had worked through “difficult times” re: covid. So social workers didnt? MPs were not on the front line.

    • Mike March 9, 2022 at 8:52 pm #

      This is shocking, a pitiful increase, Unison need help in how to negotiate, asking for 10% and only settling for 1.75 is pathetic. Government receive 2.7% increase for their blunders during the pandemic. I’m 36 and feel like I have wasted my time pursuing a career that is do overlooked and underpaid for the responsibility and stress that comes either being a social worker. Will be cancelling my Unison membership and exploring new career options.

      • Simon Cardy March 11, 2022 at 3:00 pm #

        UNISON balloted its members for strike action and secures a 70% vote in favour of strike action but failed get enough members to vote to meet the anti-trade union legislation of a 50% ballot threshold.

        • Mash March 13, 2022 at 9:31 pm #

          Unison are just a show. Having waited 1 year hoping for a better pay rise and then settling for 1.75%?. What was the point? What was the point of balloting? Waiting 1 year? The Government must be laughing. If there is one message being told, its that working does not pay off! Its very disheartening.

          • Rob March 14, 2022 at 8:41 am #

            Did you vote on the ballot and if you did toasties ilorin not? Not a retrospective question this, just curious as there are still unopened ballot envelopes on two of my colleagues desks.

      • Not My Real Name March 11, 2022 at 5:30 pm #

        The problem was the UNISON membership voted against strike action. Without the threat of a strike the union has no negotiating position. Don’t cancel your membership – organise in your workplace. Unless we stand together it will get worse.

        • michelle March 23, 2022 at 1:52 pm #

          the problem is if you strike you lose that days pay, something myself personally i can not afford. The more inflation goes up, the less disposable income people have. This cost of living is not just affecting those on benefits of any kind, but also those on a average wage.

  2. Alan. March 8, 2022 at 1:44 pm #

    I gave up subscribing to Unison some years ago after year upon year of so called negotiations re pay. They’re still prepared to be insulted by employers now and show no sign of any meaningful backbone. Totally supine.

    • Pat March 8, 2022 at 6:18 pm #

      Completely agree! I stopped subscribing because Unison were pitiful in negotiations

      • Simon Cardy March 11, 2022 at 3:23 pm #

        This failure has nothing to do with negotiations but everything to do with anti-trade union laws. If everyone took your view there’d be no union at all and then where would we be?

    • James March 8, 2022 at 6:31 pm #

      It was put out for strike action nationwide but not enough members voted for it to be put forward even though those who did voted 79% yes. It wasn’t that Unison didn’t try, there wasn’t the members to push for it further sadly.

      • Simon March 11, 2022 at 10:29 pm #

        Very true if people dont vote how can we get anything I’m a unison steward I was disgusted with the pay deal but come on members vote one way or the other……..

        • Not My Real Name March 14, 2022 at 10:07 am #

          Join the club. People don’t understand how Trade Unions work. They don’t join, don’t vote for strike action or don’t strike when one is called and then complain ‘the union does nothing for me’.

      • Anna March 18, 2022 at 3:03 am #

        I believe the High number of homeworkers contributed to the low response in the ballot.

    • john stephenson March 11, 2022 at 3:41 pm #

      Hope you are not relying on B.A.S.W. for support

  3. Anon March 8, 2022 at 2:19 pm #

    Since 2009 there has been more than 20% real terms reduction in pay coupled with huge issues with workload and staff reductions and turn over. For a number of years there has been zero increase followed by the odd year with below inflation pay increase. Staff have also faced reduced pensions, hugher pensions contributions, IR35, loss of honorium for practice teachers, AMPH roles, no movement or increase in mileage payments, mininlmal support with payments working from home, reduction in out of hours payments, the list could on how social workers terms and conditions have got worse and worse and yet unions have been powerless to influence this agenda.

    • Anon March 11, 2022 at 1:53 pm #

      I couldn’t agree more.

  4. A March 8, 2022 at 11:42 pm #

    The final straw. After 36 yrs on social care wages being cut by job re evaluation and pay freezes. It’s time to retire at least you get inflation pay rise and can work elsewhere. In my time the standard of applicants for jobs has decreased and it’s becoming just a job without care. We may all need care that needs to be paid for. I feel so put on after what we went through. I see bosses who get pay increases by evaluation when mine was cut and yet I am more capable than them but I care. I feel used by the gov. All staff need union though. Without representation it will become fire and rehire and sack without fear of challenge. Vote for change to many well heeled and brexiteer supporting oligarchs paying for Influence. Tax the rich not the working poor. Stacks of money in UK. To many rich claiming back VAT and business expenses falsely. Bankers taxes cut by schoolboy ex banker who worked for bank that caused 2008 crash as did Javids bank. Goodbye social care and good luck you really need it and don’t listen to the well healed mail biggot readers.

  5. DMKMA March 9, 2022 at 8:52 am #

    My husband is shocked and insists we ‘work to rule’ no more than 37 hrs a week because we all know we do more! If we all stuck together and did this the system would fall apart. That’s not to mention strike action or similar. However I am too one of those who feel responsible to the families and young people I work with so I think the caring nature of social care staff is exploited by the systems to make the individual feel guilty rather than them not being supported to provide the good quality service many strive for but are under funded and under resourced to provide.

    • Shaun March 9, 2022 at 12:23 pm #

      I am fully onboard with the work to rule your husband is suggesting. Non of us can afford to strike look at the world and energy prices going through the roof. We need to think out of the box. 37 hours pay = 37 hours work. No more. Extra roles and responsibilities e.g Practice Educators and Best Interest Assessors no extra money no agreeing to take on these roles. We are truly victims of our on doing. We can’t afford to strike but we can work to rule and refuse additional roles tasks on good will only. We must send a message to Adass and the government the good will has gone and enough is enough.

  6. Paul March 9, 2022 at 8:59 am #

    If social workers bothered to act rather than moan from the margins their unions might have leverage in negotiations. If I got a penny every time I heard a social worker say they could never strike because of their “clients” would suffer I would have a better reward than 1.75%. Stop moaning and blaming everyone except our own apathy and we might be treated better.

    • Shaun March 9, 2022 at 12:30 pm #

      Paul we have no confidence in Unison. What have they ever done for us. We have lost our essential car users allowances. Whilst our on vehicles get hammered driving around for the councils. They are a toothless organisation. They fail year on year to get us a decent pay rise. We need our own union the works solely for social workers that can get some teeth in dealing with our concerns. Social workers unison are fragmented and will remain fragmented until we get our own union who solely represents our interests. Look at the strength of the nursing and midwifery council. Upset them and the government knows about. Upset unison or social workers, nothing. We reap what we sow.

      • Daniel McComb March 9, 2022 at 5:33 pm #

        There is the social workers union (SWU) under BASW, which I’m a member of but I don’t think they have a huge membership (although I believe it is growing). But I agree we need our own union that represents our profession in the same way as the NEU for teachers or the RCN for nurses. Here’s the link for the SWU –

        • Simon Cardy March 11, 2022 at 3:32 pm #

          Daniel, the SWU cannot take part in pay negotiations as they do not submit pay claims, are not recognised by the employer organisations or local authorities for collective bargainning purposes, do not take part in negotiations and have no seat at the table. Their terms and conditions stratergy relies on lobbying MPS who have no say in local government pay bargaining. Are you aware of this?

      • Alison March 9, 2022 at 11:54 pm #

        If you are a Unison member you are the union. You pay your subs so get involved and make it what you want it to be The BASW union is the old toothless “association” more interested in coat tailing than leading. Our strength is our selves but we would rather moan and be martyrs than act. We deserve all that is dished out I am afraid.

      • Simon Cardy March 11, 2022 at 3:51 pm #

        Shaun, social workers do not need our own union, we need, you need, to be active in existing trade unions preferably UNISON, to encourage members to vote in ballots and to elect shop stewards to represent us. Acting collectively with other workers in solidarity with and who share the same employer is the only way forward unless you want the employers to pick one union off against the other. That’s why many of us reject your position as strategically inept.

      • Frida K March 11, 2022 at 7:11 pm #

        Join the Social Workers Union and consider becoming a SWU Union Contact in your workplace. Becoming active in your union is the best way to promote membership and enable collective growth. This is how the other specialist unions you mention have developed, and how SWU is too with currently over 16k members.

    • DaveM March 11, 2022 at 2:57 pm #

      Absolutely well said

  7. Robert Saunders March 9, 2022 at 12:15 pm #

    Interesting that Unite denies having any social worker members! I am both.

    • DB March 14, 2022 at 7:56 pm #

      Me too!

  8. Carlton March 10, 2022 at 9:25 am #

    Actually we don’t “subscribe” to a union we are members of a union. And there lies the impotence of social workers. One is paying in and getting something back without putting in the graft, the other is being active with often great disappointment as reward for the activism. But you know we are all so busy to chip in now and again aren’t we? Speaking as a shop steward you understand.

  9. Tahin March 11, 2022 at 11:09 am #

    Shaun, the only reason our pay and terms and conditions have been eroded is because most social workers are apathetic. I qualified as a social worker in 1984 and joined Nalgo and then Unison when it rebranded. In Nalgo days we had vibrant membership with very lively and at times confrontational shop and branch meetings. The language I use here may as well be jurassic for current Unison members. I have been on strike twice as a social worker over our terms and conditions. We won because we withdrew our labour and the managers and councillors who bragged that we would not be missed and they would step in and do our jobs couldn’t hack the reality of what we do and settled. None of this would happen today because apart from anything else our obsession with the “profession” narrative has isolated us from our communities and other allies. Whatever our pretence we are atomised and individualistic. Sadly we are also too easily swayed by pseudo academia, tweets, podcasts and the rest of the vacuity that passes for intellectual engagement now. A million statements from BASW mean nothing when they swim in ever decreasing circles of self promotion and are content with a biscuit from and a photo with the great and the good. Come in at 9 and leave at 5 if that is your hours. Stop making a fetish of working “hard” and sloganising “unpaid overtime”. If you don’t have a shop steward, and where they exist I’ll wager most social workers won’t know who it is, ofcourse employers know they can laugh at us, patronise us and ignore us. Why would they not give us what they think we should have rather than a fair settlement? They know we will wail at the injustice of it all but aren’t prepared to act to force their hands. Social work needs to rid itself of the “we are always done to” helplessness and have the confidence that with unity and solidarity we can show ourselves. Don’t be scared of frightening the horses, nobody worth their weight thinks we are a proper profession anyway. Humming politely and within prescribed boundaries about human rights, co-production and social justice while being seduced by MBE’s and recruitment companies sponsoring social work awards is the proverbial impotent weeing in the wind. Incidently when they are being bullied and victimised social workers suddenly seem to know what Unison can do for them. But that shouldn’t be enough. That’s why they gave us 1.75%.

  10. Sheri March 11, 2022 at 1:51 pm #

    CAFCASS social workers have received no pay award this year as the MOJ has a pay freeze which with the rise in inflation results in real terms pay cut.

  11. Tom March 11, 2022 at 2:12 pm #

    Other than the sub-mockery of professionalism, I agree with your argument Tahin. There are 23 Unison members over our two social work teams here. When the ballot papers came to us I tried to get us to discuss the offer. As ever most of my colleagues were too busy to attend. 5 of us returned our ballot papers. Some didn’t bother opening the envelopes, some looked and put them in the recycling bin. Send Unison in to negotiate without a stick and you end up with a kick in the teeth as the result.

  12. Kay March 11, 2022 at 2:19 pm #

    You will never make money working for other people. The only way to be financially better off is to be self -employed, yes that is also hard work, but the financial rewards are much better.
    I have been a qualified social worker for 10 years and I cant imagine doing another job.
    Yes, this so called pay rise is an insult to our profession, but what else can we do but accept or leave? Strikes to do not work in the short term, it would take a long time for the Government to listen and to change our value to them and in the mean time, lots of children and adults will suffer.

  13. Hilton Dawson March 11, 2022 at 4:35 pm #

    This is an appalling result & it reflects the contempt in which social workers are held by government, local government & the public sector trade unions.
    Unison don’t have 40,000 social workers in membership & have been lying about this for decades.
    Their main activity as regards social work has been to try to undermine social work’s own trade union the Social Workers Union at every stage. Their only successes have been to keep SWU out of the Joint Negotiating arrangements around pay & conditions & oppose their membership of the TUC
    Thankfully SWU is thriving
    The answer for social workers is to join SWU & campaign vigorously for social work & social workers.
    Hilton Dawson
    1st General Secretary SWU

  14. Tahin March 13, 2022 at 9:06 pm #

    Good to read you declaring your interest in your never ceasing bitterness towards Unison there. Was Unison also responsible for the debacle over the Social Work College too? Branding fellow trade unionists liars is a big claim. For balance can we be told how many practising social workers are in the non-union SWU? You know the ones who are not retired, not academics, not working for BASW, not SWE bureaucrats? I have no love for Unison, I am a Unite shop steward, but take them over the posturing of BASW anyday. Incidentally, it’s not very democratic and a bit sneaky signing up BASW members automatically to SWU without their personal agency isn’tit? Still in the spirit comradeship and solidarity, fraternal greetings.

  15. Sally March 14, 2022 at 8:51 am #

    I have worked in 4 LA’s and now in the NHS as a social worker in my 19 year career. I have met 1 BASW member and never known a social worker who is not a Unison member. Unless ofcourse they are of the “we don’t agree with strikes and unions bring unnecessary conflict into the profession” brigade. Something that BASW trumpeted in olden days too. Am I misremembering Dawson?

  16. Craig March 14, 2022 at 9:17 am #

    I seem to recall something about trade marking “BASW-The College of Social Work” in a bid to stop Unison having a role Tahin. I remember it was all supposed to be about promoting social work by “its leading professional organisation”. How did that end? Anyone remember?

    • Simon Cardy March 14, 2022 at 4:34 pm #

      It’s here Craig. It was a reasonable but far from perfect deal in which BASW members could opt in or an addition trade union section that would form its own social work section but tied in to UNISON. It would also have secured funding for the college of SW. It was sabotaged by Dawson who put his personal ambitions above everyone else’s who then joined the chorus from the Tories claiming it wasn’t going to be independent. Part of the inept lack of strategic thinking plagued by those in the BASW leadership represented by Hilton Dawson at the time.

      • Craig March 15, 2022 at 10:59 am #

        Thank you. Good to have the context. It’s shameful that personal animosity turns into insulting others as “liars”.

  17. SW March 14, 2022 at 11:45 am #

    Its a shame that our county council have not managed to sort this in time for the pay to be received in March, instead being paid in April when the NI will have already increased – makes the increase void almost !!

  18. Mark March 20, 2022 at 6:04 pm #

    Disgraceful, we are not valued, never have been and never Let the managers on 50000 per year do it, . Let them go out at night and do we do, instead of drinking their nightly allowance.

    I dont envy the future generations doing this thankless job.

    I dont think I’ll be renewing my registration when it’s due theres no point anymore.

    Mark ( a soon to be ex social worker).

    • Dean March 21, 2022 at 9:30 am #

      Totally agree, when we are willing to accept toil for hours worked over 37 the employers are laughing at us, the problem they have is there is a national shortage of social workers so they can’t just replace us so we should use this to our advantage. Stick to our 37 hours ask for a time and motion study to assess the times needed to do tasks and stick to it. If they had to pay for the hours we actually do then things might change and they will see a decent pay rise is actually a potential cost saving. Personally I think we should ask the union to ask for overtime payments and do away with Toil as have the time we don’t get the opportunity to take it. I have colleagues who have been told not to record it as its excessive, this should be outlawed also all toil should be recorded.

  19. Louise March 22, 2022 at 8:44 pm #

    I’m a council social worker in the South of England in child and family services and we didn’t get this. Our LA s seems to know nothing about this, even higher up management. So not sure how it works. Sad if we miss out on even this tiny pay rise!

  20. Hannah Lucy Kenward March 23, 2022 at 8:51 am #

    Has anyone found they have received this? My LA has no idea of this and it isn’t being honoured? Can anyone advise on what to do if they won’t grant us this?

  21. Geoff April 6, 2022 at 9:34 am #

    My backdated pay award will be paid in April, so subject to increase National Insurance rates. If the unions had just agreed the award then I would be better off.