What is more of a priority for you next year?
- Getting my pay rise in April, even if it's not the best. (57%, 251 Votes)
- Taking action (including striking) for a better deal, even if it doesn't succeed. (43%, 190 Votes)
Total Voters: 441
Unions have agreed to accept this year’s local government pay deal for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, following a protracted dispute.
UNISON confirmed today that unions had collectively accepted employers’ offer of a £1,925 rise for staff outside the capital earning up to £49,950, with a 3.88% hike for those on higher wages than that. Outer London staff will receive a £2,226 rise while colleagues in inner London will get a £2,352 hike up to a defined salary threshold.
However, employers separately stated that, while UNISON and the GMB had formally agreed to settle, Unite had not added its name to the agreement – though the other two unions’ agreement is sufficient for the deal to go through.
The pay deal will be backdated to 1 April, 2023, and apply to the majority of authorities with social services responsibility in England and Wales – those that fall under the National Joint Council for Local Government Services (NJC).
What is employers’ 2023-24 pay offer worth to social workers?
- An NQSW working outside of London on pay point 23, earning £30,151, would see their pay rise by £1,925 or 6.4%.
- An experienced social worker outside of London on pay point 32, earning £38,296, would see their pay rise by £1,925 or 5%.
- A team manager outside of London earning £51,832 would see their pay rise by £2,011 or 3.88%.
NB The figures refer to staff working in councils covered by the National Joint Council for Local Government Services agreement in England and Wales. This group includes a large majority of councils with social services responsibilities.
The road to the pay deal
The agreement comes nine months after the unions lodged their claim for 12.7% – at a time of inflation in excess of 10% – to be met, in February 2023, with what the NJC employers said was their “full and final” offer.
This is the deal that the unions have now accepted. However, the spring and summer saw UNISON ballot its members on taking industrial action, as GMB and Unite members rejected the offer.
However, despite a positive vote in some areas, UNISON, the union with the largest number of social work members, announced in August, decided not to pursue industrial action and opted to seek a negotiated settlement.
At the same time, Unite, following an industrial action ballot, started a campaign of local strikes, which is still ongoing. The GMB carried out its own strike ballot in September and October and announced yesterday that it had not secured a mandate to pursue effective industrial action.
Despite the agreement, Unite said it was persisting with local strikes in pursuit of better deals for members in those areas.
Its national officer, Clare Keogh said: “Unite’ s ongoing local authority disputes will continue and the union will be giving our members rock solid support where they are fighting for improved terms and conditions at the local level. Unite has already secured multiple local wins for our members in different councils across England and Wales. We will continue to back our members 100% who are in dispute so we can build on these locals wins further.”
Staff ‘need the money in pay packets now’
“Following the conclusion of the NJC industrial action ballot the message from the majority of GMB members was clear – though clearly angry, members are struggling in the current climate and need the money in pay packets now,” it said.
On a statement put out on X (formerly, Twitter), UNISON said: “UNISON met with the the other local government unions, GMB and Unite, on 1 Wednesday 2023, and the joint decision is to accept the pay offer of £1,925 on all pay NJC pay points (pro rata’d for part-time and term time only staff. The pay award will be backdated to 1 April 2023.”
It said employers had been informed and unions’ immediate priority was to “get the money into the pay packets of our hardworking members as soon as possible”.
A spokesperson for the NJC employers’ side said that, though payroll arrangements varied from council to council, it was “confident employers will work hard to ensure the pay award and backpay is paid before the end of the year”.
He added that, while there was no legal requirement for employers to pay backpay to staff who had left since April, the employers’ side’s advice was to do so if requested by a former member of staff.
Focus on 2024 pay deal
The unions are also now turning their attention to their 2024 pay claim and would be meeting shortly about this, with consultations with members to follow.
“The fight to restore local government pay will continue and we plan to be stronger than ever to get fair pay for council and school workers,” UNISON added.
In a circular to council chief executives, the employers’ side secretary, Naomi Cooke, criticised the “protracted process” of settling the claim.
She said the backpay that staff would now be due would likely result in a cut to the amount of universal credit (UC) received by lower-paid staff. This is because it would be paid as a lump sum, making it appear that they are earning more than they really are, reducing the amount of benefit they are entitled to.