Southampton City Council social workers in seven-day strike

Southampton City Council social workers have announced they will strike for six more days in a continuing dispute over changes to pay and conditions.

Unison and Unite said about 50 workers in adoption, fostering and at a children’s centre are to walk out from Thursday 4 August.

The unions previously announced more than 450 social work staff were to walk out for one day on Wednesday 3 August.

Council leader Royston Smith said the strike was a “mile too far”.

He said: “This action by trade unions will put the welfare of our most vulnerable children in our city at risk. There is no excuse for that. This is not just a step too far, it is a mile too far.

“Announcing even one day’s strike in this area is unacceptable. Going beyond that and announcing a further six days of strikes for people who directly look after our vulnerable children simply beggars belief.”

Unions said workers were striking over the introduction of new contracts that have forced the majority of workers to take a 5% pay cut.

More than 99% of the council workers signed the new contracts on 11 July.

Workers are also unhappy about the council’s decision to pay £1,400 “market supplements” to a limited number of social care staff in compensation for the cut in wages.

Unions will meet with council chiefs to discuss minimum staffing levels to ensure the safety of vulnerable children during the strike.

Unison branch secretary Mike Tucker said: “The extended strike action by social workers demonstrates the depth of the anger over the council’s actions.

“The industrial action will spread unless the council negotiates a fair settlement with its workforce.

“The payment of £1,400 market supplement is part of the problem, not a solution. The council needs to re-think its approach to retaining social work staff.”

The move is the latest in a series of industrial action by staff at the Conservative-run council.

Toll collectors, parking officers, bin collectors, library staff and street cleaners have all been on strike during the past two months.

In February, councillors finalised budget cuts of £25m and said all workers earning more than £17,500, which is 65% of staff, would have their hours cut – resulting in a loss of pay.