Argyll and Bute social workers vote for industrial action in dispute over standby payments

Social work staff who provide emergency out-of-hours cover in Argyll and Bute have voted to take industrial action in consultative ballots run jointly by two unions.

Both Unite and UNISON members voted 100% in favour of taking industrial action short of strike action, while Unite members voted 100% for strike action; with 78% UNISON members in favour.

Both unions will now move towards formal action in a dispute over standby payments, which they say Argyll and Bute Council (pictured) pays well below the Scottish Joint Council social work standby rates.

Alison Maclean, regional officer for Unite, said: “Unite’s members have completely lost patience as we have tried to resolve the issues and concerns for years now but the workforce has been continuously ignored.

“That’s why 100% of our members voting in a consultative ballot supported strike action.

“The reality is that the service is at breaking point with precarious working practices contributing to stress and anxiety, which ultimately puts both the social workers and the service users at risk.

“Getting the correct standby rates paid is the starting point. Argyll and Bute Council need to fix this issue by committing to meaningful dialogue without further delay or our members will be forced to take action, which could have devastating impacts on the service and the communities they serve.”

Unison Scotland branch secretary Mary Watt said: ‘Our members have been raising issues about the unsustainable nature of the social work emergency service for years. We could fill a bath with tea and sympathy from management.

‘Our members are clear they now need concrete action. An important first step is Argyll and Bute Council honouring the national agreement on social work standby rates.

‘We have written to the leader of the council, the chair of the health and social care partnership, and the council’s chief executive, urging them to step in and avoid industrial action.

‘Hopefully they will see sense and implement the national agreement and thus create the space to address the many other issues that need tackled to ensure the emergency service is safe and sustainable.’

A council spokesperson said: “We value the work done by social work services, and are keen to see negotiations continue with the trade unions as a constructive route to address concerns.”

Picture (c) Wikipedia.