Social workers resume strike action as dispute remains unresolved

IROs, child protection conference chairs and local authority designated officers also start work to rule in dispute over impact of pay and grading review

Pay dispute image
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Social workers have resumed strike action after a two-week pause, as their dispute with their local authority remains unresolved.

The nine independent reviewing officers (IROs), child protection conference chairs and local authority designated officers (LADOs) from Swindon council returned to the picket line for two days this week.

They have also started a work to rule, under which they are refusing to carry out management-level tasks.

Pay gap with team managers

The social workers are in dispute with Swindon over the impact of a pay and grading review. According to their union, the GMB, this led to a pay gap of about £6,000 between them and team managers at the authority, with whom they had previously been on the same grade and pay rates.

The practitioners initially walked out for two days last month and then the GMB paused the action, requesting talks mediated by employment relations body ACAS, it said.

“We put this to the council in the hope that they would be as keen as we are to see this issue resolved, however they made it abundantly clear that they will not meet with GMB to find a way through the issues,” said GMB branch secretary Andy Newman.

However, this was rejected by the authority.

Council rejects union’s charge that it is rejecting talks

A Swindon Borough Council spokesman said: “We are disappointed we have not been able to come to an agreement with the GMB, but any suggestion that we do not want to meet with the union on this issue is just not true. We have been trying really hard to build a constructive relationship with the union and the local rep’s comments simply don’t reflect the reality of the situation.

“Our door is always open and we very much hope the GMB continues to talk to us, rather than to the media, so we can bring this matter to a satisfactory conclusion for our valued staff.

“We remain committed to supporting our workforce and have taken steps to minimise any disruption to service users during the current strike action.”

Two other groups of social workers represented by the GMB remain in dispute with the council about issues relating to the pay and grading review, having also taken strike action in recent months.

Two other social worker pay disputes

Emergency duty service staff took action over the removal of a payment from staff worth £8,400 annually for working unsocial hours.

The council has said that other changes it is making would leave EDS staff about £3,000 a year better off; however, the GMB has claimed that these are not guaranteed – a view Swindon rejects.

The other group is assistant team managers (ATMs), for whom the average gap in pay with advanced social workers has narrowed as a result of the review, according to GMB. It said this meant ATMs’ additional responsibilities – including supervision and running case conferences – were not acknowledged in their salary.

There are no strike dates planned in relation to either of these two disputes, and ATMs have been voting on an offer put to them by the authority, said the GMB.

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