Swindon social workers vote unanimously to strike

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A vote for strike action by every single person in the department sends a really clear message to Swindon Borough Council, says GMB, as 100 per cent of social workers in Emergency Duty Service vote Yes to strike action with 100 per cent turnout, in a department with 100 per cent GMB membership

GMB, the union for social workers at Swindon Borough Council, is warning of strike action after a unanimous vote by staff in the Emergency Duty Service (EDS), the out of hours service providing 24-hour emergency care to vulnerable people in Swindon.

Swindon Borough Council employs seven social workers in the Emergency Duty Service, including two managers, half of whom are mental health professionals.

The council has announced that these staff will lose around £700 per month from 1 September, following a recent pay and regrading review, due to the removal of a 20 per cent unsocial hours payment.

The union is warning that such a huge pay cut will see workers forced to leave for similar roles in other authorities or with other employers, jeopardising the viability of the service going forward.

Talks between Swindon Borough Council and GMB are scheduled for Wednesday morning [2 August] seeking to resolve the issue and avoid a strike.

Andy Newman, GMB Branch Secretary said:

“A unanimous vote for strike action be everyone in the department sends a really clear message to Swindon Borough Council. The last thing that social workers want to do is to take strike action, but they are being forced into this drastic step due to a planned pay cut.

“GMB is talking to the council leaders seeking a solution, and with good will I am sure that there is a solution to be found. Swindon Borough Council needs to understand that they have got this badly wrong.

“The service in Swindon is regarded nationally as a model of best practice and is unusually cost-effective due to never having to bring in expensive agency staff.

“The council is jeopardising all that with an ill-considered proposal that was drawn up under the previous Conservative administration to cut their pay, removing the contractual 20 per cent uplift to basic salary that EDS staff currently receive for out-of-hours working.

“GMB has drawn up detailed financial estimates that show that the likely impact of these staff leaving would be increased agency staff costs of £300,000 in the current financial year, with these losses rising in subsequent years.

“We have enormous sympathy for the new Labour administration of the council who have inherited this mess, but without a solution, Swindon Council will end up paying more money out for a worse service, with talent leaving and worker morale plummeting.”  


GMB blocked a similar proposal made by Wiltshire Council in December 2021 to cut social workers’ pay by 20 per cent, however even the threat in Wiltshire led to a drop in social worker morale, higher sickness levels, and more staff leaving, resulting in an extra quarter of a million pounds per month spent on agency costs to provide the same service.

The proposed pay cut for EDS social workers by removing the 20 per cent uplift would mean that SBC would be paying considerably less than other local authorities for similar roles, for example:   

  • South Gloucester EDS pays a 26 per cent uplift   
  • Wiltshire EDS (children's services) 23 per cent uplift, Wiltshire EDS (adult services) 20 per cent   
  • Wokingham EDS 29 per cent uplift (20 per cent responsibility allowance + 9 per cent market supplement)   
  • BCP (Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole) EDS 20 per cent uplift

Swindon Borough Council has recently completed a pay and grading review, costing £4.6 million, using the private sector Korn Ferry consultancy to implement the Hay scheme of job scoring, which originated in America in the 1930s and which is widely regarded as undervaluing those jobs more likely to be done by women.