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.
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.”