Social Care Direct votes to strike is dispute over worker voice

Senior social workers have voted 100% in favour of strike action

Update 16 April 2024: Planned industrial action has been postponed following meetings which arrived at arrangements that look to move the dispute to resolution. Strike mandates last for six months, so we will be closely monitoring the situation to ensure the Council follows through on its commitments to our members. If it fails, we will not hesitate to take action.

David Harrold, Unison branch secretary, sent the following email to Unison members:

It was the intention of members of Unite the Union employed within Social Care Direct to take industrial action from Tuesday 16 April to Thursday 18 April. That action has now been suspended and will not take place.

The threat of this action persuaded City of Edinburgh Council to return to the negotiating table and it is hoped that this will be the beginning of meaningful dialogue, between the workforce and the employer, with resolution soon achieved. UNISON congratulate Unite members and their trade union for standing strong and reaffirm our offer of support if it is ever needed in the future.

Senior Practitioners in Social Care Direct for Children’s Services have voted to strike in a dispute in which the Council has failed to deal with a collective grievance over forced changes in the workplace within a reasonable timescale. The ballot closed today with 100% of the workforce voting and all in favour of strike action.

Members submitted a collective grievance in February 2023 regarding changes being enforced without consultation. We still await an outcome to the grievance despite assurances of one being imminent in September 2023.

The changes were enforced using agency workers, who reviewed the service by stealth, having purportedly been introduced to provide additional support. The Council has spent a significant amount of money on Pertemps for this work, to the extent of waiving the contract standing orders and then extending their waiver further, worth £246,000, at the Finance and Resources Committee on 10 March 2023.

The support outlined in the above paper has now all gone, leaving the workers with excessive workloads—and greatly reduced morale due to their treatments over the past year.

We are calling for an immediate outcome to the grievance and various remedial measures to:

  • ensure change is managed as per the managing change guidelines
  • provide clarity about the direction of the service
  • provide a forum for an effective voice for workers
  • justify and investigate the imposed changes
  • investigate the failings in the handling of the grievance.

It is evident that even after the Tanner Inquiry, the Council does not take workers’s complaints serious and issues raised about senior management are not dealt with appropriately.

Is this behaving with ‘respect’ and ‘integrity’? The words of the Tanner Inquiry, noted in a recent Evening News article, painfully true: “not a universally positive, open, safe and supportive whistleblowing and organisational culture”.

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