Swindon Borough Council faces strike vote over 'colonial era work practices,' says GMB

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Social workers at Swindon Borough Council are set for a strike vote over ‘colonial era working practices’, GMB Union claims.

Staff – many recruited directly from India – were handed a contractually agreed £8,000 signing on bonus and a £7,000 recruitment and retention bonuses spread over three years.     


The recruitment and retention bonus has now been stopped but they are still being told if they leave Swindon Council within three years, they will have to pay back the £8,000. 


The move only affects staff recruited from India – with no equivalent reduction of money for social workers from the UK.  


All 14 workers have written writing to management but have been ignored, while Jim Robbins, Labour leader of the council, has not responded to GMB Union.  


The ballot closes on Friday 26 April 2024.


Andy Newman, GMB Branch Secretary, said:  


"GMB members are shocked at being treated unfavourably compared to staff recruited directly from the UK.  


"Threatening them with a cash penalty to lock them into a job smacks of indentured labour. One worker described it to me as "modern day slavery".  


"Many say they feel belittled by managers, who they say show ‘subtle insensitivity to our needs’.   


"It has the hallmarks of colonial era working practices, and GMB will now ask members if they want to strike.”  



Media enquiries: GMB Press Office on 07958 156846 or at

Notes to Editors:

Swindon Borough employs 14 social workers recruited from India.   


These 14 staff were recruited between March 2022 and September 2023 via specialist India based recruitment agencies, who work for UK local authorities.   


They were recruited on the promised of an £8,000 relocation allowance and a £7,000 recruitment and retention bonuses spread over three years.     


Workers knew the £8,000 relocation bonus would be taken away if they left within three years, but the £7,000 would not be.  


 Now the £7,000 has been taken away, thanks to a pay and grading restructure. This was not agreed with the workers nor GMB Union.  


The council insists the £8,000 must still be repaid if they leave within three years.