The new year has brought fresh determination to win two quite different long-running battles for fair pay, one in north London and the other in the North West of England.

In Barnet mental health social workers employed by Barnet council have announced another five days of strike action from Monday January 15, and a Rally for a Safe Service on January 30. The additional strikes come after 17 days strike action last year, making this the longest running Mental Health social worker strike in the history of UNISON.

The strike followed a ballot in which 78.95% ballots were returned, with a magnificent 100% vote for strike action.

The dispute is over the much lower rates for pay for social workers covering adults in Barnet: children’s social workers are paid 15%-25% more. The discrimination is such that a lead practitioner with extensive social work experience and line responsibility in an adult mental health team is paid only £1,000 more than a newly qualified social worker in a children and family team.

Many Mental Health social workers are also Advanced Mental Health Practitioners (AMHP), following an intensive course to trains them to assess whether an adult in mental health crisis should be detained under the Mental Health Act 1983.But in Barnet the salary received for staff with this specialist skill set is less than that of a duty and assessment social worker in the Children and Family service, despite that role requiring no additional training.

The strikers are urging supporters to write to Barnet Council to urge them to equitably apply their recruitment and retention policy and demonstrate that it values mental health community services in the same way it values children and family services.

Write by email or by letter to:

John Hooton, Chief Executive of Barnet Council [email protected], or London Borough of Barnet; 2 Bristol Avenue; London NW9 4EW, and to Cllr Barry Rawlings, Leader of Barnet Council [email protected], London Borough of Barnet; 2 Bristol Avenue; London NW9 4EW.

Discrimination and unfair lower rates of pay are also at the centre of the 45 days of strike action that have been taken so far by Clinical Support Workers (CSWs) employed at Arrowe Park and Clatterbridge hospitals. TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak joined the picket line on January 8 to lend support.

The staff in dispute care for some of the Wirral’s most vulnerable residents – but for years have been undervalued and underpaid by the Trust (Wirral University Teaching Hospitals): CSWs are employed on Band 2 and, as such, should only undertake personal care such as assisting patients with feeding, toileting and bathing.

However a UNISON survey of hundreds of staff at WUTH found that the vast majority of CSWs are regularly and routinely undertaking clinical duties above their pay grade which should be paid at least Band 3. Duties include taking bloods, urinalysis, cannula care, patient observations, catheter care and wound dressings.

The difference between Band 2 and Band 3 NHS pay is nearly £2,000 per year – so dedicated CSWs, who already went above and beyond during the pandemic, are being systematically underpaid for the work they do.  With full backing from UNISON they are striking to secure back-pay to reward and recognise the years they’ve been undertaking clinical duties.

A number of Trusts – including Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, the Northern Care Alliance, Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, Stockport NHS Foundation Trust, Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust, and Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust – have all re-banded their CSWs/HCAs and paid back-pay up to 1 April 2018.

So CSWs employed at Arrowe Park and Clatterbridge hospitals are asking why should they be worth any less?

Supporters of the strike are urged to sign this petition to support their cause and download and tweet this pledge card to tell CEO Janelle Holmes (@homesjanelle on X/Twitter) that the workers of Wirral deserve no less than those of Greater Manchester.

Dear Reader,

If you like our content please support our campaigning journalism to protect health care for all. 

Our goal is to inform people, hold our politicians to account and help to build change through evidence based ideas.

Everyone should have access to comprehensive healthcare, but our NHS needs support. You can help us to continue to counter bad policy, battle neglect of the NHS and correct dangerous mis-infomation.

Supporters of the NHS are crucial in sustaining our health service and with your help we will be able to engage more people in securing its future.

Please donate to help support our campaigning NHS research and  journalism.                              

Comments are closed.