South Gloucestershire Unison strike. Photo: Roger Thomas
South Gloucestershire Unison strike. Photo: Roger Thomas

Dan Smart, Adult social care rep and branch secretary, South Gloucestershire Unison (Personal Capacity)

When in adult social care we found we were to be underpaid by £3,000 per year in comparison to those in children’s services, we felt insulted and angry.

The yearly retention payments were offered to children’s social workers back in 2021 and Unison members in South Gloucestershire Council have been organising for equality in adult social care since. We have taken five days of strike action from April this year, and have a strong mandate until September.

Adult social workers and occupational therapists (OTs) have exactly the same qualifications as those in children’s social care, and are facing very similar challenges in recruitment and retention. We support people in some of the most challenging circumstances in society, from complex disability, to domestic abuse and mental health issues. Working flat-out during the pandemic, our reward has been to see our pay decimated and funding for services continuously slashed.

We demand that the council also give us the uplift, to ensure we are keeping hold of our experienced colleagues and attracting new staff. The cost-of-living crisis means many are having to vote with their feet and go to where the pay is better, working for an agency or another council. Some of our members told me on the picket line that they are now even taking second jobs just to make ends meet.

Due to the council’s intransigence over this issue, further strike action is planned to coincide with a lobby of the newly elected cabinet on 12 June. We will be coordinating our action with striking council refuse workers in Unite, who are also out that week.

The Conservatives have just been ousted out of South Gloucestershire after eight years, and there is now a Lib Dem-Labour coalition. While there is some optimism among members that Tories are finally out, there is rightful scepticism towards the other two parties. Already they’ve started to show their colours. The Labour leader has not agreed to meet Unison and we’ve had absolutely no response yet from the Lib Dem leader!

Unfortunately, this is an indication of what is to come on a national basis, demonstrating the urgent need for socialist councillors as part of a new mass workers’ party, who are prepared to stand up and represent the workers’ movement politically. Social workers and OTs in South Gloucestershire will continue to apply the pressure until we get paid fairly, which is the first step towards providing quality adult social care services to our communities.

Come to NSSN conference

11am – 4.30pm, 24 June at Conway Hall, London. Registration fee £6

Confirmed speakers so far: NIPSA General Secretary Carmel Gates, BFAWU General Secretary Sarah Woolley, POA General Secretary Steve Gillan, NAPO National Official Annoesjka Valent, GMB Officer Gary Palmer from the victorious #GMBThree