Social workers and occupational therapists working for South Gloucestershire Council are back on strike.
Staff will walk out for two days of action, today (Tuesday) and Thursday (1 June) after voting overwhelmingly for industrial action in a dispute over pay.
UNISON has been in dispute with the local authority since last summer. This is over its decision to award staff in children’s services an additional temporary £3,000 payment on top of their basic annual salary, but not those doing the same job in adult services.
The extra money to retain staff reflects the challenges councils are facing in recruiting and keeping social workers, and UNISON says more staff should receive the supplement.
The union says figures** show a quarter of local authorities are now offering these “market-forces” supplements as many are facing significant problems attracting and keeping staff.
Nick Fryer, a senior social worker at South Gloucestershire Council said: “Central to social work is the importance of equality. By paying our colleagues more, who have the same qualifications as us, for happening to have chosen to work with children and their families is not equitable and we will continue to make that point to the decision makers.
“The latest retention figures show that they are worse now within adult services then they were when the payments were agreed for children services. Yet, senior management refuse to make the case to the Council for the same payment to be made to us.”
UNISON South West regional organiser Jayne Jackson said: “Strike action is always a last resort, but staff are determined to take a stand on this important issue.
“Negotiations to date have sadly not led to a resolution. But only through talking will this issue be settled. The council must double its efforts to end the strike by paying up and showing it values all its social work employees.”
UNISON head of local government Mike Short said: “Social work is an extremely demanding job and councils everywhere are finding it difficult to attract and hold on to staff.
“If this employer is to tackle staffing problems and maintain safe and effective services, councillors should be making these payments to all social workers. Otherwise, experienced employees will simply up sticks and leave for workplaces offering better rates of pay.”