Social workers and OTs strike again as union and council explore resolution to dispute

Post-it note on a table with the word 'STRIKE' written on it
Photo: Markus Mainka/Fotolia

Adults’ social workers and occupational therapists have taken a sixth day of strike action in pursuit of pay equality with children’s practitioners at their authority.

The latest walkout by the UNISON members at South Gloucestershire Council, on Monday 12 June, comes with the authority having set up a “benchmarking exercise” with the union in an attempt to resolve the dispute.

However, UNISON has claimed that it is “yet to have a positive response from the council to resolve the pay discrepancies” that are at the heart of the dispute.

Payments for children’s social workers

These encompass:

  • A £3,000 lump sum for new children’s social workers who have already passed their assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE) on successful completion of their probation.
  • A £3,000 annual payment for children’s social workers with two years’ service with the council.

The payments are part of the council’s children’s services improvement plan and are designed to help develop a “high-quality stable workforce with [the] capacity to ensure children and families are helped, supported, and protected”.

This objective was “yet to be fully realised”, said a report to the council’s cabinet in March, despite progress being made, including the recruitment of 18 social workers from abroad and some agency staff expressing an interest in taking on permanent roles.

Adults’ practitioners want pay equality

However, the union has argued that the payments should be applied to adults’ practitioners, both on grounds of fairness and because the recruitment and retention pressures that were the drivers for the bonuses applied equally in adults’ services.

The council said it was taking steps to resolve the dispute, including through working with UNISON to benchmark social work and OT roles in adults’ services against those in neighbouring councils.

“We have agreed to continue to update UNISON on the progress of our adult social care workforce action plan which is in place to support all staff within the service,” said a spokesperson.

“UNISON have not accepted the insight and data the council has provided to date to support the council’s position.

“To move forwards we have set up joint benchmarking exercise with UNISON and practitioners. This new group is about to meet for a second time and we expect this work to be independently quality assured.”

Union plans further strikes

However, in response, the union said: “UNISON is yet to have a positive response from the council to resolve the pay discrepancies between social workers in South Gloucestershire.

“We are, of course, committed to a resolution to this dispute and would welcome discussions. In addition, UNISON is fully engaged with the council on its joint benchmarking exercise, and we welcome the work that is being undertaken.

“However, until the dispute is resolved, or an offer is on the table UNISON will continue to take industrial action.”

Following Monday’s walkout, the union will review options for further strike action.

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4 Responses to Social workers and OTs strike again as union and council explore resolution to dispute

  1. Linda June 10, 2023 at 9:03 am #

    What about adult social workers in the community? And hospital social workers based mainly in the community since Covid and the Discharge to Assess model was implemented. Surely any pay awards/increases and/or bonus should encompass all adult social workers nationally and not just in one geographical area area of employment or an area of employment such as, the agenda for change. If the Union needs our support in any strike action then they need to fully support their members. As Local Authority social workers we are grouped with other council workers and services. We should really have our own social work union and if we do we never hear of them or from them.

  2. Sandra June 13, 2023 at 11:08 am #

    I totally agree Linda.

    I’ve never understood why there is such a disparity between Children’s and Adult Services. Both are equally important to the community within which we all have to live and both come with specific “headaches” that increase levels of worker burnout and retention.

    In my humble opinion, Social Workers in general are seen as a profession that ‘will put up and shut up’. Our conduct is generally depicted as uncaring, robotic and inadequate by the media, so when it comes to paying staff for the work they do, the general public just don’t recognise the impact we have in all areas of life and so there is little support for us unlike, Teachers and Nurses.

    The role of Social Workers in the UK is in desperate need of a makeover. We are supposed to amongstthe best in the world, and so we should be identifying the various branches within social work, so that we can finally shake of some of the old images and stigmas to highlight the actual good that we do.

    • Angel June 16, 2023 at 9:58 am #

      I totally agree Sandra could not have put it better myself and with the previous person’s comments. We are all stressed out and overloaded because of staff shortages and huge cuts to resources which means the work takes longer and is more challenging. Also the image of Social Workers in the public eye and media needs a complete overall it’s like we are always the hated on public sector workers compared to Teachers and Nurses, no free pizzas or clapping for us in the pandemic etc etc the irony is as we know without Social Workers to put in support after hospital and instead of hospital the wheels will come off completely.

  3. benzl June 13, 2023 at 10:00 pm #

    Good luck all the striking social workers and O/Ts you are an inspiration to others & your cause is just! when we act together and in solidarity with our local council colleagues they will be there for us too. Great to see you are standing firm and fighting to win!