City council latest to face social worker strike over pay inequalities between adults’ and children’s staff

Adults' practitioners to stage one-day walkout with more to follow if there is lack of progress in negotiations with authority for 12.5% pay top-up currently received by children's counterparts

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

A city council has become the latest to face social worker strike action over pay inequalities between adults’ and children’s staff.

Adults’ social workers at Brighton & Hove council will stage a walkout on 7 November in pursuit of a 12.5% market supplement on top of their salary – as received by their counterparts in children’s services.

The strike by UNISON members is the third this year over this issue, following walkouts in South Gloucestershire and Barnet councils, by adults’ and mental health practitioners, respectively.

Brighton & Hove UNISON said 100% of those voting backed the strike, on a 72% turnout. The decision to strike was a “last resort”, following a two-year campaign for adults’ practitioners to be given the supplement, it added.

Council ‘must address pay inequality’

“Brighton & Hove City Council needs to address the significant issue of equality between the pay of workers in adults social care with their friends and colleagues in families, children and learning, said joint branch secretary Corinna Edwards-Colledge.

“Otherwise, talent and experience will continue to drain away, overtime and agency spend will continue to rise, and the risk to services will increase.”

Social workers reported that the current situation was leading to high levels of staff turnover.

One said: “I am a newly qualified social worker. Since I joined my team just over a year ago, eight of my colleagues have left.

“A significant reason for this is that other local authorities pay adults social workers a market supplement. It’s demoralising to work in this atmosphere and as a young person just starting my career, I feel disadvantaged by this and by wanting to work for the community I live in.”

Strike action ‘not taken lightly’

Another UNISON member added: “Strike action is not something I do lightly. Working with vulnerable (many elderly) people who have recently been discharged from hospital is a role I take very seriously. However, the ethos I apply to ensuring those vulnerable residents are treated equally and supported with the services they need; is the same ethos I seek to apply to myself and my colleagues.”

The strike will coincide with the first of 26 days of action, over 5 months, in Barnet.

Brighton & Hove UNISON said it was in talks with the council and that further walkouts would be staged on 14 and 15 December if no progress were made.

The chair of the council’s adult social care & public health sub-committee, Tristram Burden, said: “Our social workers carry out challenging work day in, day out, and we value each and every one of them. We know the cost-of-living crisis is biting, and we help wherever we can.

12.5% pay top-up ‘cannot be delivered’

“But as we have made clear in our negotiations, this unfortunately cannot include awarding social workers in our adult social care service a 12.5% market supplement. I will always support the right the strike, but I’m also saddened employees feel the need to take this action.

“We are keeping negotiations open with our UNISON colleagues to try to find a solution to the current dispute.”

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5 Responses to City council latest to face social worker strike over pay inequalities between adults’ and children’s staff

  1. PJ October 26, 2023 at 7:34 pm #

    Yes there’s always been the discrepancy between pay of children’s social workers an adult’s. The reason given was always to do with the children’s posts being hard to recruit to but I’ve always worked in authorities where adult services were carrying vacancies . Wonder if there’s a Birmingham type action in the pipeline across local authorities?

    • Ryan Webb October 29, 2023 at 9:32 am #

      Birmingham’s a catastrophically disastrous example of how to manage this sort of issue.

      • Anna Tully October 29, 2023 at 10:23 pm #

        How did Birmingham manage it?

        • Ryan Webb October 30, 2023 at 2:48 pm #

          Check out “Bankrupt Birmingham” on File on 4, BBC Sounds

  2. AGM October 26, 2023 at 10:32 pm #

    The pay disparities is quite alarming and all adult social care employers should mend the gap before it is too late. I would rather be an agency social worker earning good salary than being a permanent employee with reduced pay especially in this economic crisis.