Barnet Council announce plans to strike break.

Below is an email which was sent at 16.48 pm Friday 17 May 2024 to all staff working across the Adult Social Care Directorate. UNISON comments are in bold.

“Dear colleagues,

I am writing to update you on the council’s proposals for a recruitment and retention payment for social workers and occupational therapists in adult social care and the current strike action being taken by a number of Barnet Unison members in three out of our six mental health teams.

The council has proposed offering a 5% recruitment and retention payment for qualified social workers, occupational therapists, and lead practitioners across adult social care.

The proposal also includes a £1,000 recruitment and retention payment for team managers of the social work and occupational therapy teams.

In all previous meetings you have been insistent that you could not have two tier payments across Adult Social Care. Your responses were that there was no evidence that could support mental health social workers receiving a higher rate than other staff across Adult Social Care. In this email you have changed your position by offering a different payment to team managers of the social work and occupational therapy teams.

“What objective criteria have you seen that has led you to change your offer from 5% to £1k?”

This has been rejected by Unison who want a 10% recruitment and retention payment for qualified social workers in the three striking mental health teams only.

Not true. We have rejected 5% for mental health social workers. The decision about payments to other staff is solely down to Barnet Council. It is their decision. It is shameful that Barnet Council are using this communication to gaslight mental health social workers as if they had the power to whether to make a payment to their work colleagues.

They have not requested additional payments for any other staff.

Not true. In all meetings and emails about the wider payment UNISON has been clear that this is a decision for the Council to make. UNISON does not have a dispute about a wider payment.

Our benchmarking shows that we pay competitively compared to other outer-London boroughs and will do so even more with this proposed new payment. Different arrangements exist across London for remuneration of AMHPs and the Barnet pay offer is very competitive. Having looked at councils across London offering recruitment and retention payments for adult social care, they all pay this equally across all teams, with the exception of one borough that offers a recruitment and retention payment to occupational therapists only.

We are of the view that our offer of a 5% recruitment and retention payment is fair and reasonable given the market benchmarking and that under our recruitment and retention policy it is only justifiable to make the offer to all adult social workers and occupational therapists.

A 10% increase in pay is not justifiable and is simply not sustainable. It will put more financial pressure on the services we offer our residents and – given the challenging financial position we find ourselves in – on the adult social care and council budget.

The current industrial action significantly reduces our ability to respond to residents’ requests for support with their mental health, and we have been unable to reach agreement with Unison on minimum staffing levels to ensure we can deliver a safe service to residents.

Not true. Two hours before this email was sent to all staff UNISON responded in an email where we said: “Finally, I need to advise you that UNISON will not suspend the action, but I can confirm we are available to meet and discuss your service concerns. It would help if you had someone in the meeting who has experience of running mental health services.”


We have asked Unison to suspend their industrial action so we can agree minimum staffing levels to ensure a safe service. But, given our statutory responsibilities in this area, we have come to the point where we are looking to hire an external provider to ensure we can maintain a safe, minimum level of service to residents throughout the strike. Our assessment is that additional resource will be needed imminently to manage this risk and to enable the council to effectively respond to urgent referrals in a reasonable timeframe. As such, we are in the process of procuring a duty service from a third-party organisation for a period of 10 weeks. The duty provider will screen all incoming work, triage cases and respond to the most urgent referrals.


Strike breaking: Barnet Council are using agency workers to carry out roles that our members would be carrying out if they were not on strike. This is the second attempt by Barnet Council to use agency workers to break the strike. Instead of wasting money on agency workers they should be settling this dispute.


I want to be clear that this is not the provision of agency staff and is an entirely legal mitigation for the council to take. We respect the right of staff to strike but we have now reached the point where we feel this action is necessary to protect residents and to ensure we fulfil our statutory responsibilities.


No this is strike breaking. The use of agency workers is being used deliberately by Barnet Council to undermine a fundamental right which protected as such under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the freedom of assembly and association).


I would like to end by saying we appreciate the work our mental health social workers work do in a challenging environment – as well as that of all our other teams – and we hope we can swiftly resolve the dispute and focus on continuing to strengthen our services.


This message is disingenuous. Dawn has not attended any of the negotiating meetings. If they want to settle, then decision makers should be in these meetings. What has been deeply troubling has been that no one with experience of working in mental health social work has been present in any of the Acas talks or local negotiating meetings. In the last negotiating meeting UNISON asked that in future could the decision maker attend these meetings alongside someone with experience of working in mental health social work.

Kind regards,



***Updated: Monday 20 May 2024. UNISON received an email asking if we would release one of our strikers to cover AMHP duty this morning ask they had no one to cover because of sickness. UNISON agreed release. However, if Barnet Council continue with their current policy of refusing to acknowledge the growing recruitment and retention crisis there will be less than two AMPHs in these teams which is simply not safe or sustainable going forward.