SOCIAL workers providing out of hours emergency cover in a Scots local authority have voted for strike action in a pay dispute.

The Unite and UNISON Scotland unions say their social work members have voted overwhelmingly for industrial action in consultative ballots.

Unite members voted in a consultative ballot 100% in favour for action short of strike action, and by 100% for strike action. UNISON members also voted by 100% in favour for action short of strike action, and by 78% for strike action.

Both unions say they will now move towards formal industrial action ballots involving social workers in a dispute over standby payments in which Argyll and Bute Council pay "well below" the Scottish Joint Council social work standby rates.

Employers use standby payments to compensate staff for having to be ready to work outside normal hours if required and call-out payments if a member of staff is actually called upon to work during those hours.

Alison Maclean, Regional Officer for Unite said: "Unite's members have completely lost patience as we have tried to resolve the issues and concerns for years now but the workforce has been continuously ignored.

"That's why 100% of our members voting in a consultative ballot supported strike action. The reality is that the service is at breaking point with precarious working practices contributing to stress and anxiety, which ultimately puts both the social workers and the service users at risk. "Getting the correct standby rates paid is the starting point. Argyll and Bute Council need to fix this issue by committing to meaningful dialogue without further delay or our members will be forced to take action, which could have devastating impacts on the service and the communities they serve."

The unions say the social workers are currently paid £9.32 per session on weekdays, £19.85 per session on Saturdays and £27.07 per session on Sundays and public holidays.

They say the current SJC rates for social workers on standby are £31.28 per session.

Mary Watt, UNISON branch secretary also added: “Our members have been raising issues about the unsustainable nature of the social work emergency service for years.

"We could fill a bath with tea and sympathy from management. Our members are clear they now need concrete action. An important first step is Argyll & Bute Council honouring the national agreement on social work standby rates."


UNISON has written to Robin Currie the council leader, Kieron Green the chairman of the Health & Social Care Partnership and Pippa Milne the council’s chief executive urging them to step in and avoid industrial action.

"Hopefully they will see sense and implement the national agreement and thus create the space to address the many other issues that need tackled to ensure the emergency service is safe and sustainable," said Ms Watt.

Argyll and Bute Council was approached for comment.