Breaking News: Barnet Council Mental Health social workers to be balloted for strike action.

13 June 2023

Barnet UNISON has today submitted their application for the UNISON Industrial Action Committee (IAC) to approve their call for members working across the following Mental Health Services Teams to be balloted for strike action.

  1. Mental Health Team – North
  2. Mental Health Team – South
  3. Approved Mental Health Practitioners Service.

The ballot is in relation to the chronic staffing issues across these services.

Barnet UNISON proposed that the Council enter into urgent negotiations over the implementation of the Council’s Recruitment and Retention Policy (RRP) for Mental Health Services as a short-term solution to try to hold on to existing staff whilst developing a more comprehensive plan to make Barnet Mental Health social work service one in which staff want to stay. The RRP has been used in Family Services social work for the last 6 six years and has recently increased the rate up to 25% in recognition of the serious RR issues in some parts of Family Services.

Key date dates of meetings to resolve the dispute: 

  1. Friday 24 February 2023 John Burgess Branch Secretary emails Executive Director – Communities, Adults and Health seeking an urgent meeting.
  2. Friday 10 March 2023 meeting with UNISON and Executive Director – Communities, Adults and Health. No agreement.
  3. Wednesday 12 April 2023 Adults JNCC UNISON and Executive Director – Communities, Adults and Health. No agreement.
  4. Wednesday 12 April 2023 John Burgess emails Chief Executive, requesting an emergency JNCG.
  5. Thursday Meeting 18 May 2023 JNCG. No agreement reached UNISON registers a Failure to Agree.

At the third and final meeting with the Chief Executive (18 May 2023) the ongoing lack of meaningful engagement on this matter was summed up at the start of the meeting when the Chief Executive advised he could only stay for 15 minutes.  This meeting had been requested by UNISON as per the procedures. The key decision maker is the Chief Executive who would have been briefed by senior council officers and would be aware that UNISON had already stated that if an agreement could not be found they would issue a request for a formal strike ballot.

In the final meeting UNISON announced that during the first three months of 2023 the following staff have left:

  • 2 Lead Practitioners.
  • 2 Senior Social Workers.
  • 2 Social Workers.
  • 3 Locums.

The two teams have a current establishment of 22 so a loss of 9 staff in a short space of time is further evidence of the chronic staffing issues in frontline mental health teams.

At the end of the meeting UNISON submitted their report and all the supporting documents.

In addition to the recent loss of staff UNISON provided feedback on the outcome of a survey of our members working across the teams.

1. Do think you are working in a safe working environment?

100% of members replied, NO.

2. Have you considered leaving your current role within LBB in the last few months?

100% of members replied, YES.

3. Do you think your salary is fair for the role you carry out?

95% of members replied, NO.

4. Do you think that you should be entitled to RRP?

100% of members replied, YES.

The responses were deeply troubling, and UNISON would have thought an employer would be concerned and want to address these issues. To date UNISON has had no response from senior management despite UNISON stating the door is open.

If management wanted to send a message to the workforce, they couldn’t make is clearer that staff views and their union are not worthy of a response.


Notes to Editors.

Contact details: Barnet UNISON on 0208 359 2088 or


UNISON calls for urgent action over chronic shortages of frontline Mental Health social workers.