Breaking News: UNISON issues strike action notice for the next 5 months!

Julia Mwaluke, UNISON Vice President on Barnet UNISON picket line

Today, UNISON sent the strike notification letter to Barnet Council laying out the dates of strike action to be taken by Mental Health social workers starting in November right through to March 2024.

The first day of strike action will start Tuesday 7 November 2023.

We are pleased to report that Brighton UNISON Adults social workers will be taking strike action on the same day (Tuesday 7 November 2023) Barnet UNISON Mental Health social workers are taking strike action. Their demand is similar to our demand, they want parity for Adults social workers with Family Services social workers who have retention payments.

Barnet UNISON has proposed a solution to this dispute which is based on rates (7.5% to 25%) that are already paid out to other social workers in Family services. According to evidence seen by Barnet UNISON, the numbers of staff leaving Mental Health social work teams exceeds those leaving Family Services social work teams who are all receiving recruitment & retention payments. Barnet UNISON is clear that recruitment & retention payments are likely to help stabilise the high turnover of staff across Mental Health social work teams and help retain existing staff.

The strike timetable for the next FIVE months is as follows:

  • 7/8/9/14/15/16 November 2023.
  • 4/5/6/7/8/ December 2023.
  • 15/16/17/18/19 January 2024.
  • 5/6/7/8/9 February 2024.
  • 4/5/6/7/8 March 2024.

42% of social workers within the Mental Health Social Care have left within the past year whilst more still have formal plans to leave the teams within the next few months, meaning this figure is closer to 50%. Furthermore, the majority of workers who have left have been those with by far the most experience, with many of these workers previously working their entire careers in mental health services within Barnet. When looking at information regarding the mental health experience of permanent staff members, one team has lost 75% of the experience within their team in less than one year. The result is that social workers who are recently qualified make up the bulk of the teams.

***Please note that Barnet UNISON has lodged another internal dispute on behalf of the remaining social workers and occupational therapists working in Adults in response to the 2.6% recruitment and retention offer made to this group of workers. Barnet UNISON is unaware of any recruitment and retention issues across this workforce and has made repeated requests for a breakdown of staffing levels across all the other social work and OT Teams. As of Tuesday 24 October, this information has not been provided despite several requests being made both in writing and in meetings.

We are challenging the lack of a safe service and the unreasonable and increasing waiting lists which put the residents of Barnet at risk of harm. We are asking for a recruitment and retention payment to maintain a stable and permanent workforce of experienced staff. We will continue to advocate for the residents of Barnet and unless Barnet Council implement a reasonable recruitment and retention policy to keep experienced staff in Barnet, we will continue to return to the picket line come rain, shine, or more rain, to raise awareness and fight for residents. Why? Because we are social workers, and THIS is what social work looks like!” (Barnet UNISON Mental Health social worker).

“It is incredible that the employer prefers strikes over getting its facts straight and negotiating a solution. It is incredible that the only people who truly care about the services they provide are the ones on the frontline. Under the COVID pandemic we were heroes and now we’re supposed to accept that our viewpoints count for nothing? Enough is enough! These striking workers make sense and are prepared to fight for decent services. It is an honour to be with them.” (Helen Davies, Branch Chair Barnet UNISON)

“My advice to the Council is to wake up and return to the negotiating table with a credible or risk further disruptions to Mental Health services. We know that the waiting list for services has increased from 6 months to 14 months. The impact of strikes and the constant staffing changes are all exacerbating a problem that needs addressing. Our members are clear that to deliver a safe service with no waiting lists they need to have a stable and experienced workforce. In the space of first 9 months in 2023, 14 out 31 staff have left and last week another member of staff has given in their notice. This staffing churn is bad news for service users, and it impacts on the well-being of staff and the longer it continues there is an increased likelihood of more resignations.” (John Burgess, Branch Secretary Barnet UNISON).


Notes to Editors.

Contact details: Barnet UNISON on 0208 359 2088 or email:


Why our Mental Health social workers are on strike flyer.

Day One of Mental Health social work strike.


What do UNISON and the Mental Health social workers hope to achieve with the strike?

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