Emergency duty social workers resume strike following pause

Council says staff will be £3,000 a year better off under new pay arrangements but union argues practitioners have

Swindon social workers on strike
Swindon social workers on strike (credit: GMB)

Emergency duty service (EDS) social workers have resumed ongoing strike action over their pay arrangements after pausing it for talks with employers.

The GMB members have walked out every day since midnight on Monday (4 September) after cancelling planned strikes last weekend.

The seven practitioners are currently planning to strike every day up to and including Sunday 17 September, followed by every weekend until the New Year.

While the union has acknowledged that Swindon Council has offered staff an improved and a broadly acceptable deal, it said members were concerned that this was not guaranteed.

This has been rejected by the authority, who said the deal would leave the seven practitioners in the EDS at least £3,000 a year better off and the additional money was secure.

Loss of unsocial hours allowance

The nub of the dispute is a pay and reward review commissioned by the South West authority that led to the removal of a 20% annual supplement to their pay that EDS staff received for working out of hours.

Though staff members earned different amounts previously, the GMB said that this would amount to a loss of £8,400 for practitioners on average, based on a representative salary of £42,000 a year.

As part of the review, Swindon also proposed increasing base pay to £46,549 and offering a 30% allowance for hours worked between 10pm and 6am, which the authority said would be worth at least £4,000 to practitioners.

Social workers ‘now better off’

It has since agreed to increase base pay for the seven practitioners to £49,590, which it said meant a representative staff member previously earning £42,000 a year would be £3,000 better off annually than under the old system.

However, practitioners have persisted in taking action over concerns that the money is not guaranteed.

“The strike started because a contractual unsocial hours allowance of £700 per month was removed, and the new arrangements for night pay left our members out of pocket,” said GMB branch secretary Andy Newman.

‘Offer acceptable but social workers concerned’

“Progress has been made, and the new money which SBC have put on the table is broadly acceptable. However, our members have a reasonable worry that the way it has been offered is not legally robust, and the payment could be taken away again. GMB has offered reasonable and moderate proposals of how that concern could be addressed, but we are also open to other suggestions, which is why it is vital to talk.”

In response, the council’s deputy leader, Emma Bushell, said the money was guaranteed.

“Changes to base pay as a result of the pay and reward process are permanent and cannot be removed. Staff have been given letters confirming the new permanent rates of pay. The latest meeting broke down because the GMB tried to introduce issues which were additional to those outlined in the reasons for strike and which do not relate to the staff group’s pay concerns.

“We believe that all of the issues raised by the GMB as part of strike action have been resolved and look forward to our valued staff returning to work.”

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