Social workers to take 26 days’ further strike action in pay and staffing dispute

Barnet UNISON says mental health practitioners will stage walkouts from November to March 2024 over lack of retention payments

UNISON vice president Julia Mwaluke on the picket line with Barnet UNISON strikers
UNISON vice president Julia Mwaluke on the picket line with Barnet UNISON members (credit: Barnet UNISON)

Social workers will take a further 26 days’ strike action in a dispute over pay and staffing levels.

Barnet UNISON said members working in mental health would stage walkouts from November 2023 until March 2024 in pursuit of their objective of retention payments equivalent to those received by the London borough’s children and families’ social workers.

Social workers in Barnet’s approved mental health professional and north and south mental health teams staged six days of strike action in late September and earlier this month over the issue.

Retention issues

The union claimed that 42% of staff within the teams had left over the past year with others planning to do so, a proportion that exceeds the attrition rate in family services. This was leading to mounting waiting lists and and a service that was “not safe”, it added.

However, while social workers in family services are paid market supplements of 7.5% to 25% of salary a year to aid retention, the council has offered practitioners and managers in adults’ services, including the mental health staff, £1,000 per year for the next two years – which UNISON said was worth 2.6% on average.

UNISON is calling for mental health practitioners to be paid a 20% market supplement in addition to their salaries.

“We are challenging the lack of a safe service and the unreasonable and increasing waiting lists which put the residents of Barnet at risk of harm,” said the union’s branch secretary, John Burgess. “We are asking for a recruitment and retention payment to maintain a stable and permanent workforce of experienced staff.”

26 days of strike action

The union said staff would walk out on

  • 7, 8, 9, 14, 15 and 16 November 2023;
  • 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 December 2023;
  • 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 January 2024;
  • 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 February 2024;
  • 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 March 2024.

The council has maintained that its salaries for the mental health social workers benchmark well against comparable authorities and that retention levels in the teams were good.

In response to the latest announcement, a Barnet council spokesperson said: “We continue to meet with the trade unions through our liaison structures.”

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5 Responses to Social workers to take 26 days’ further strike action in pay and staffing dispute

  1. J king October 26, 2023 at 3:19 pm #

    Well done for standing up for yourselves. Social workers are always the forgotten work force. Where I work we are being asked to keep doing more and more as they can’t recruit and want to save money. We are currently in talks with the union

    • Jaihanne October 28, 2023 at 1:21 pm #

      Thanks if we all stand up
      For ourselves we will have a stronger voice. I hope your talks go well.

  2. Linda Y October 27, 2023 at 10:56 pm #

    What about social workers in adults. Unison and the unions should be fighting for all adult social workers not just striking so mental health social workes may benefit. Unison is not uniting social workers to strike for equal pay and creating divisions.

    • Shaun October 29, 2023 at 10:34 am #

      So I don’t know the history and don’t know whether you work there Linda Y. But normally a particular section aren’t taking action because they have been engaged and there isn’t an appetite. So my challenge would be…common the rest of the adult sw in Barnet, stick together with mhsw, risk not getting paid for a day’s industrial action and work collaboratively to get the deal you deserve.

  3. Carrie H November 11, 2023 at 5:04 pm #

    I do wonder how many senior managers are aware of LGA expectations re safe social work practice, let alone meet them – good luck