Barnet UNISON Mental Health workers began strike action on pay in September 2023.
This is a live wall which is continuously updated as messages of solidarity are sent to our branch. SEE BELOW
We’re sending you our messages of solidarity from across our nations and regions and particularly from our branches in the North West.
That was a fantastic result with 100% voting for strike action. What Barnet Unison Mental health social worker did it is the perfect and strongest messages for the rest of other health workers that :
It is the ” U ”
And the “I ” in the UNION
That makes us
The Labour movement was the principal force that transformed the misery and despair into hope that progress. Yes, we can win
Once again Congratulations
Black Members Reserved Seat, NEC
UNISON Vice President
“I want to congratulate every one of the Barnet Unison Mental Health Social Workers who sent back their strike ballot. 78.95% returned ballots with a 100% vote for strike action is an incredible victory against the Tory anti trade union laws and a victory for the collective unity of the workers. United we are strong.
This action from Unison members is in defence of their jobs and to protect the communities services under attack from further cuts and profiteering.
Your fightback is inspirational and sends a clear message that enough is enough.
Congratulations once again and solidarity. Libby Nolan, UNISON President.
“Social Workers do a difficult but essential job, providing a service to some of the most vulnerable members of our society. Working in Local Government we’re all too familiar with the impact of cuts to funding – we have less resources and less people to try to provide the same level of service. And we know that austerity impacts on people’s mental health, meaning at times like we have now, your service is even more critical.
We also know that we can provide a better service if we are paid and treated properly. But the government and too often our bosses don’t value us – although they never seem to have a problem paying themselves more money!
In a society that is increasingly divided, where we have more billionaires than ever before, it’s disgraceful that important workers like you aren’t paid properly. Your ballot result was amazing – smashing through the Tory anti-union threshold and having 100% in favour of action is brilliant!
We currently have a group of our branch members out on indefinite strike – they too voted 100% for action – and Barnet UNISON has consistently supported our members. It is a privilege to be able to return the solidarity and support you. If you end up needing to take action, we will be visiting your picket lines and looking at how else we can show our support.
In solidarity, Liz Wheatley Branch Secretary Camden UNISON
Dear Barnet UNISON Mental Health Social Workers,
I want to take a moment to express my wholehearted support and solidarity with you as you make the courageous decision to go on strike. It’s clear that Barnet Council has not adequately recognized the serious understaffing problems within your frontline Mental Health social work teams.
Your dedication to providing crucial mental health services is truly admirable, and it’s disheartening to see your concerns go unaddressed. It’s essential for all workers to have safe and manageable workloads to deliver the best care to those who depend on your services.
I applaud your commitment to standing up for your rights and the well-being of your clients. It’s a challenging step to take, but your actions are a testament to your unwavering dedication to the welfare of the community you serve.
Please know that many people, both within and outside your community, are behind you during this difficult time. Your fight for better conditions and staffing levels is just one, and I hope that Barnet Council will listen and take action to address these critical issues promptly.
Stay strong and resolute in your cause and may your strike lead to positive changes that benefit both you and the individuals who rely on your essential services.
In solidarity, Mohamed, Barnet Unison
I have heard you are out on strike. I am a school nurse leader in Tameside, Greater Manchester but I used to work in Barnet 2005-2012. I want you to know you have my full support. We will never get experienced staff to stay unless we pay them better and it is patients and service users who lose out when they are not there. We have precisely the same issue in school nursing and health visiting – plus I see Tameside social workers are nearly always agency because they can’t afford not to be. I see them burn out within months and have families on my caseload who have had 6 social workers in 12 months. It isn’t good enough and it isn’t the fault of the workers, or even their management. Loads of complex issues but, if you consider Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, they need to start at the bottom and recruit and retain staff in order to start to make inroads on the other issues. Sending you the best of luck with your strike and hoping someone ‘who can’ sits up and takes notice. Natalie Jones ,School Nurse Practice Education and Development Lead Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust
Hello, I’ve heard that social workers are striking. I’m a discharge team nurse at UCLH and want to say that I appreciate all that you do and totally support your action.
Just wanting to send a message to striking social work staff, we’re all on the same side and the public support is there. We’re not backing down, not for this government nor the next one.
Enough is enough. Graham.
Can you please pass on this message of support and solidarity to the mental health social workers taking strike action?
I have worked for over 30 years in mental health services in Salford. I have the greatest respect for my social work colleagues in mental health services, and I am aware of the stress they work under, with high caseload numbers and low pay. Our most experienced staff are becoming burnt out, as they try and work under these testing conditions.
There is a severe shortage of mental health front line staff, and your inspirational action is the most effective way to deal with these issues. Our branch will be supporting your campaign, and we will encourage other branches to get involved in your struggle.
Kevin Corran UNISON NEC (Health) Assistant Branch Secretary Gtr Manchester Mental Health Branch UNISON
Hi to all the striking social workers in Barnet mental health teams.
I am a mental health worker in Manchester and want to offer you both my and my colleagues full support in your fight for recruitment and retention premiums. Low pay for what we do is endemic across the public sector. And the work is hard and stressful. We will never retain experienced staff if we don’t pay them properly and its users of our services, their carers and the wider community and mental health workers who suffer when we are given responsibilities above our experience levels.
The money is there to pay you. I’ll is still one of the richest countries in the world and profits continue to rise, 75% since the beginning of the pandemic. Why didn’t our wages go up the same??
This government wants to cut out pay and our services. You are standing up for both. You are an inspiration. We are trying to run a similar campaign right across our inpatient and CMHT staff groups. If you win this will encourage our staff.
All the very best. We will discuss a donation to your hardship fund at our next meeting.
Karen Reissmann, Vice chair greater Manchester mental health unison branch
I’m a medical student with the BMA, having worked as an HCA with the RCN the previous year. I just wanted to send a massive message of solidarity for turning out on strike in the coming weeks. Across the health sector workers and patients have been brutalised and exploited. Standing up as you are is vital, not just for yourself but for all those who work, use, or believe in public healthcare free at delivery.
You, and millions of other healthcare workers in the UK and beyond, all deserve massive pay rises and far better conditions. Without pay, we have no staff. Without staff, there is no NHS.
Strike to win!
I stand by all the social workers who have to strike in order to get their voices heard.
On behalf of Hendon School Unison support staff we would like to say we offer our
support to the Social workers at Barnet Council in their dispute as we fully appreciate
how hard and what a difficult job you do, and the dedication you need to support
Children and adults in need in the community.
David – Unison Rep – Hendon School.
Solidarity from all at Kirklees Unison for your Branches Mental health social workers on strike tomorrow.
Mick Donoghue Branch Secretary Convenor Kirklees Unison
Sending support and solidarity to Barnet’s adult mental health social workers from union members at Tudor Primary School. Wishing you strength and determination for a swift victory with an outcome that meets your demands and recognises the need for the service to be well funded and fully staffed, with a stable workforce that can meet the needs of your clients.
Workers in schools know, from our daily experience at work, the importance of good mental health support and social support for our local community. Workers providing these services must not be taken for granted.
Solidarity for your struggle for decent pay and staff retention!
David Ball, Unison rep at Tudor Primary School, Finchley
“Support and solidarity from Leeds East in your fight for fair pay. You do such vital work and it needs to be recognised and fairly remunerated. Solidarity! Richard Burgon MP”.
This one is from Ian Byrne MP Sending solidarity from Liverpool West Derby for your fight for fair pay and conditions. Your fight is our fight & we are all behind your struggle. Ian Byrne MP
This one is from Graeme Morris MP Top Solidarity and every support for your just cause for fair pay for the vital work you do from Grahame Morris MP for Easington and Chair of the Unite Group In Parliament.
This one from Andy McDonald MP “Solidarity from Middlesbrough. Yours is just cause. Huge thanks for the vitally important work you do for us all. You have the respect and admiration of the whole country but dignity at work can only be secured if it is founded on fair and proper pay. We stand with you in your struggle”
This one from Ian Mearns MP Respect and solidarity from Gateshead. Your cause is just and true appreciation is not about banging pans on the doorstep but standing side by side with you in your struggle for a fair and decent wage!
This one from Ian Lavery MP Massive Solidarity from Wansbeck. This constant fight for simple justice for decent wages terms and conditions alongside the real issue of respect in the workplace should be basic human rights. Your fight is our fight too. Respect and solidarity Ian Lavery MP.
This one from Rebecca Long Bailey MP “Solidarity from Salford. Your role holds our NHS together. Full support in your fight for the pay and respect you deserve”
This from Apsana Begum MP “Solidarity from East London. Keep up the good fight and thank you for looking after the most vulnerable of people in our society. Apsana Begum MP, UNISON member.”
This one from Kim Johnson MP Support and solidarity from Liverpool Riverside, long time member and former rep, your fight is our fight✊🏽
From Christine Blower Labour member of Lords “Solidarity in this struggle for the pay you need and deserve.’
From Shami Chakrabarti Labour House of Lords “Total solidarity in your struggle, not just for your own pay, conditions and dignity but for the defence of the vital health services of us all.” – Shami C
From Kate Osborne MP Please pass on my solidarity.
Please send my colleagues a message of solidarity from me and I will try and join the picket line for a while on 4th and 11th October if I can.
I understand all your frustrations about pay and working conditions and that these need to keep pace with Family Services. Our work serves the community equally and should be acknowledged as of equal value. Burnt out workers is too high a price to pay!
See you on the picket line!
Kind regards. Liz Shaw
Sending our mental health social work colleagues my support, in what are already challenging times, in more ways than one. Thinking of you all in these very difficult times. You all do an amazing job!!
Kind Regards Fiona Wood
I fully support the action you are taking. It is terrible how a job that is as important as yours is under paid and therefore completely undervalued. We need social workers and I am really sorry you have been treated so shoddily.
Congratulations, your first day looks fabulous. We work in a mental health NHS trust and are looking to mirror your dispute. Safe Staffing does not exist anywhere and will only be solved when they pay staff enough to recruit more of us.
Well done for today, solidarity from Greater Manchester mental health unison, we are sure you can win and hopefully will inspire more fight backs
Karen Reissmann GMMH Unison.
Can I on behalf of Unison’s Medway Health Branch ( Gillingham, Kent ) pass on our solidarity and best wishes to all involved in your industrial action. Stay strong, what you are doing is an inspiration and gives confidence to us all.
In Solidarity, Andrew Travers, Branch Secretary, Unison.
I regret that I can’t be with you today, and I hope to join your picket line in the next strike days.
So for the time being, I am sending you my sentiments of admiration for your determination to resolve the impossible working conditions you are experiencing, your determination to resolve it for the sake of your service users as much as for your own sake.
As a social worker myself, having worked in Early Intervention in Psychosis as well as with people living with mental illnesses and dementia, and as someone whose nearest and dearest need and benefit from mental health services, I know only too well the crucial role of a mental health social worker.
No one but you is there to really SEE your service users in their pain, confusion and suffering. You are the ones who see their whole person, in their environment and unique circumstances, and you are the ones who can bring their voice to the attention of the medical staff in multidisciplinary teams, and advocate for them. Every one of your clients NEEDS you – need a social worker!
Without you it would be only the medical model that prevails, to the frustration of so many service users.
And we all know that often people disengage from mental health services out of frustration, as they feel unseen and unheard in the face of the medical approach that sees only the illness.
You are the ones who understand your users and can keep them engaged with the service.
They need you to be able to do you work properly! Barnet Mental Health Services needs you! Our community needs you! Our society needs you!
So thank you for taking action, thank you for making this difficult decision to strike – I am sure that your clients know you are fighting for them too. And so should your bosses know!
Best of success in your strike – I hope it will not need to be long…
Tirza Waisel, Barnet resident and social worker
Please pass on my message of solidarity to the striking social workers. I hope the strike goes well and has a great outcome for them (and ultimately the people they serve).
Although I now work for the CQC, I used to be a community mental health nurse working in an integrated health and social services team. Community mental health staff had a tough job, which must be so much harder now after over a decade of austerity (I left in 2012).
I am sorry I can’t get to a picket line – Barnet is a rather long way from Dorset and I am flat out at work (and as a union steward), so can’t take the time off.
All the very best, Alison Mesher (Member and activist of UNISON Dorset)
In an ever-changing world and with all the challenges we have to face every day, this is not an easy job to work in. There is an increasing need in this area especially after the pandemic and the more awareness which is being sent out about Mental health.
Sending all lots of positive energies and strength they can achieve a good outcome and resolution ; just so unfortunate people are having to go on strike to make themselves heard .
Good Luck 😊
I am sending you greetings and a message of support from the Whittington Hospital Branch of Unison. We are pleased to let you know that we have agreed to donate £150 to your strike fund at our Branch Committee Yesterday.
We believe that your fight for pay equity is completely just and should be honoured by Barnet Council. Working in the NHS we fully understand the need to pay staff fairly and equally for what they do – this goes a long way to retain and recruit people. There are enormous pressures on staff who work in mental health who often do long hours unpaid, and like staff in the NHS experience burnout. Your decision to take strike action for pay equity with Barnet’s Family Service Social Workers must be supported.
We hope to bring our banner to any rallies that you may be holding and show our solidarity……!!! This is a fight that you must win!
On Behalf of the Whittington Hospital Branch of Unison,
In Solidarity, Claire Dixon, Whittington Health UNISON Branch Secretary,
I live in Barnet, and I’m a long-term mental health service user. I didn’t know that social workers in Barnet are on different pay grades, this is completely unacceptable, and I have written to Barnet council to urge them to equitably apply their recruitment and retention policy and to demonstrate that they value mental health community services as much as Children and Family Services.
Due to my poor mental health I can’t stand with you on the picket line today but you have my full support for your strike action, and I am with you in spirit. Thank you for all the great work you do.
Dear Barnet Hounslow colleagues
I am Bill Reed, Secretary of Hounslow LG Unison Branch. Solidarity and our full support to your members in Mental Health social work on their dispute and recent strike action. We in Hounslow are appalled by what we read of your Labour Council’s attitude to the strike but support the resolve of your members to get a fair settlement of their dispute.
Hounslow Unison has a Committee meeting on Wednesday 18 October, commencing at 4.30 pm, and we would like to invite a speaker from your Branch or from the dispute, to tell us the full picture of the way this dispute arose and the way the Branch has responded.
You may have received these requests from Ian Clements who is Chair of the Trades Council. If there is duplication I apologise.
We hope to give material support to your cause at both meetings.
Many thanks Bill Reed
Dear Barnet UNISON,
I am writing on behalf of Lambeth UNISON to express our support and solidarity for your social work strike. Your action is essential for your social workers, social workers across the country and service users who need to see an improvement.
We hope hoped you would be able to arrange a speaker (in person or via zoom) to speak to our social work members about your action.
In solidarity, Ruth Cashman
Gabby Lawler Branch Secretary of Havering UNISON sending solidarity to all Barnet UNISON Mental Health Social Workers who begin their strike action.
Good luck with your dispute and as a union activist I and all of Havering UNISON Branch are standing with you. Social Work is a tough job in any climate but after the many years of austerity and cuts in social care as well as local government funding the role of a Mental Health Social Worker has become challenging and in some local authorities unsafe by way of case numbers. Recruitment and Retention is essential in keeping residents safe and your fight for pay equality is justified and Havering UNISON wish you every success in your strike, stand tall and stand together.
We are with you every step of the way.
Gabby Lawler Branch Secretary of Havering UNISON
I’m sorry I can’t be with you today – I had a prior engagement meeting with Higher Education activists to discuss their own fight for better pay. But I’d like to send my full support and solidarity to Barnet and Brighton social workers in this crucial dispute. I know none of you will have taken lightly the decision to take strike action – you’re doing it because you need to. And I am with you all the way.
Social work is a vital profession. You do enormously difficult work, supporting some of the most vulnerable people in society, and you do it in the face of a kind of media and political scrutiny which is completely unwarranted. The majority of local authorities are struggling to hold onto the social workers they have, and it’s not surprising, given what you have to put up with.
Please know that all of UNISON stands with you in your fight for better pay and conditions. Solidarity and best wishes.
Mike Short – head of local government
Just to let you know, there are PLENTY of right-minded people who support your action & wish you success.
Kind Regards, Des
Please pass the message of Solidarity to the Mental Health Workers and let us hope that Barnet council respond to your strike. You are a valuable resource for the Council.
Kind regards Zeenat Syed TUC and NEU Barnet
I am writing in my capacity of Chair of the South West UNISON Regional Local Government Service Group to stand in solidarity to the members within your Branch who have been forced to take strike action in order to defend their rights, pay and jobs. We know that in local government, and in social work, this is an extremely difficult stance to take and one that is not taken lightly. Many of our Committee are experiencing issues with recruitment and retention of social workers within their own employers, who believe market supplements and other unfair and unsustainable methods will help them in their cause. Instead, as you have shown, it is making members angry, upset and concerned to the point that they can do nothing else but take this type of action. You and your members are inspirational to us all, and we wish you the greatest support with all future negotiations
Kerry Gray Chair UNISON South West Local Government Service Group
Barnet UNISON Mental Health social workers begin a week of strike action on Monday 4 December.
Please see details of the location and times of our picket line.
What can supporters do?
1. Visit our picket lines all week commencing 4 December to 8 December
between 8- 12.30 pm (see attached graphic).
2. Please sign #BarnetUNISON email campaign to Barnet Council Chief Executive Please click on the link and follow the instructions. https://action.unison.org.uk/page/135744/action/1 Let us know when he replies.
Please send a solidarity message to our strikers by emailing our office at email@example.com
3. If you are on social media, you can help by liking/sharing or commenting on our many posts. Here are our social media sites.
4. Please write by email or by letter to:
John Hooton, Chief Executive of Barnet Council John.Hooton@Barnet.gov.uk
Address: London Borough of Barnet; 2 Bristol Avenue; London NW9 4EW
Cllr Barry Rawlings, Leader of Barnet Council Cllr.B.Rawlings@barnet.gov.uk
Address: London Borough of Barnet; 2 Bristol Avenue; London NW9 4EW.
- Open letter to Executive Director of Adult Social Care – Mental Health social work dispute.
- Open letter to Director of Adult Social Care – Mental Health social work dispute.
- Open letter to Cllr Barry Rawlings Leader of Barnet Council
Why are Barnet Council Mental Health social workers taking strike action?
Mental Health Social Workers in Barnet have taken 12 days of strike action and another 14 days are planned in the coming months. But Barnet isn’t the only local authority in which social workers are saying enough is enough. Earlier this year South Gloucestershire social workers became the first branch to successfully ballot for strike action with Barnet, Brighton, Swindon and Leeds social workers all having declared strike action in the following months. Similar issues are being raised by strikers across the country including high caseloads, under-staffing, unsafe services, and unfair pay policies.
13 years of austerity have resulted in huge cuts to local authority statutory services while the impact of covid has contributed to increases in referrals to social care that are forecast to continue for years to come. In such an environment and with no clear political priority being placed on fixing social care, this panel discussion considers topics like the role of social workers in championing better public services and fair pay for workers.
The session will be held on 5th December 2023 at 6.30pm in Committee Room 17, House of Commons.
The event is free, and all are welcome but please book your place by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Co- Chairs: John McDonnell MP and Kerie Anne
- Kristiana Heapy
- Dan Smart
- Corinna Edwards-Colledge
- Nana Yabbey-Hagan.
Kerie Anne, Chair of UNISON National Social Care Forum, Branch Secretary, Tower Hamlets UNISON and Families social worker.
Corinna Edwards-Colledge is joint branch secretary of Brighton and Hove UNISON and has worked in local government for over 20 years. She is also a campaigner and a writer, and is currently leading adult social workers in Brighton on their very first strike action over pay parity.
Kristiana Heapy Kristiana is the Unison team rep in Barnet’s Mental Health Social Work South Team which is currently undertaking strike action. Kristiana qualified as a social worker in 2022, prior to that she worked in the voluntary sector in a number of public policy, campaigning and service delivery roles. In her spare time Kristiana has held voluntary positions for charities focused on access to green space, equality and supporting people experiencing mental ill-health..
Dan Smart is Branch secretary, UNISON South Gloucestershire and an Adulst social worker.
Nana Yabbey-Hagan is a Qualified Social Worker for Children and Families of 10 years. Nana is currently a Team Manager for a Looked After Childrens Team, previously a Team Manager for a frontline Children Protection Team. In addition, Nana is a Practice Educator for Bachelor’s, Masters, Step Up Students/ASYE assessor for Newly Qualified Social Workers (NQSW), University Lecturer and Co-Host of the Social Worker and The Mentor Podcast.
***Please note Barnet UNISON Mental Health Social Workers are taking a whole week of strike action starting Monday 4 December to Friday 8 December.
You are welcome to join our Festive Barnet UNISON Picket line details of location are below.
- Open letter to Executive Director of Adult Social Care – Mental Health social work dispute.
- Open letter to Director of Adult Social Care – Mental Health social work dispute.
- Open letter to Cllr Barry Rawlings Leader of Barnet Council
Dear James Mass,
We are writing to you today, in the absence of any response to us so far, following our 9 days of strike action. We are deeply disappointed that you have chosen not to acknowledge the strike and, in many ways, feel that we are being treated with contempt. It unfortunately feels in keeping with a wider dismissal of the distress workers have voiced to you in the past 18 months of this dispute. We have always appreciated that in Barnet, senior management regularly interact regularly with practitioners. However, when coupled with the contrast of complete silence during our strike action, the inevitable result has been a deep sense of alienation, frustration and undervaluation.
The past 18 months, and the 14 staff members who have left our teams, demonstrate the dangerous potential of this undervaluation. 1 staff member has already handed in their notice since strike action began, more have formal plans to leave and anecdotally many others have expressed that the lack of response from senior management means they are seriously considering whether to stay. Put simply, your silence has led staff members previously very committed to Barnet to feel that they are in a service which does not make an effort to recognise their worth to the council or the difficulties they are bringing to your attention. We are incredibly concerned about the current recruitment and retention crisis spiralling out of control, leaving remaining social workers unable to provide a service at all, let alone one which is safe for service users and the social workers of whom we have been bereft of since the transformation of mental health social care in 2021. We are therefore urging you to commit to meeting with our representatives and engaging in meaningful dialogue about how we can resolve this situation.
The absence of any negotiation leaves us to reflect on previous responses from you to the conditions which led to this dispute.
We feel dismissed when you deny that our service is in crisis when it is us as practitioners who have to deal with the realities of an up to 15-month waiting list for individuals in mental distress. We are the practitioners assessing individuals whose needs have clearly deteriorated since their referral; who are either referring for Mental Health Assessments or undertaking these assessments at much higher numbers and who are putting in care as urgent hospital discharges for people who have been on our waiting list for months prior to their admission. We know first-hand that this means the care we need to put in place is much more significant than if we had been able to support them closer to their referral. We also know that we are in no position to regularly review and reduce this care, to provide least restrictive support, due to the number of service users needing acute, crisis interventions. Quite simply, unless individuals are presenting in crisis, we are unable to prioritise their care. It is subsequently difficult not to feel that we are in a failing service.
It was therefore also a profound insult to be told that that there is no retention crisis after 14 valued staff members (2 more social workers have handed in their notice since the strike began) , many of whom have been in Barnet for years, have left and told us this resulted from intolerable stress of being part of such a struggling service. We know that current conditions lead to intense anxiety, low satisfaction with work and a pressure to overwork, as quite simply; this is our daily reality. We know this is a recipe for burn-out and that when faced with burn-out, practitioners vote with their feet and leave the service. Subsequently, it is bordering on offensive to dismiss these conditions during a time when the council wishes to prioritise employee well-being as demonstrated by the communication on Mental Health Awareness day. We know the jobs practitioners have taken when leaving Barnet: these are better paid and more adequately resourced/staffed both in and outside of the statutory sector. Barnet has been a big proponent of the Think Ahead graduate scheme as a means of training social workers and encouraging them to stay in Barnet. Yet in the last two years, half of one cohort and 2 out of 5 of the current cohort will have left less than 6 months after finishing their ASYE. This scheme is failing because participants do not want to remain in a service with the current level of stress and chaos. We urge you to listen and prioritise the voices of the social workers that you employ over your own statistics to understand this retention crisis and the way out of it.
It was yet more disappointing to see that you felt our announcement of strike action was asking for special treatment for mental health social workers and pitted us against other social workers and Occupational Therapists in the council. This could not be further from the truth. We value highly the work of our colleagues in Adult Social Care, many of whom shared invaluable knowledge during the transformation to fill the gap of any targeted training for practitioners previously working outside of statutory teams. You are aware of the context for our organising and its genesis in this transformation which initiated our destabilising turnover and resulting spiralling waiting list. To deny this and again attempt to stoke division within social care perpetuates a sense that we have not been listened to. Throughout the dispute we have encouraged other social workers and OTs to take action if they are experiencing similar recruitment and retention problems and will continue to do and support them if they wish to organise. If this does take place, we urge you to learn from our current dispute and engage in the meaningful negotiation that we attempted over and over again prior to our strike action to prevent further disruption to social care.
Not one social worker out on strike wants to be in this position. The decision to strike, and to continue striking, is one which brings intense anxiety given that we know our own workloads, waiting lists and stress levels increase with each day that we are withdrawing our labour. We are in this profession because we want to support vulnerable people experiencing mental distress. You have seen how passionate we are about this work, in reviewing our care plans for panel and shadowing us on visits. You know then, that to take time away from this work is a last resort. However, it is this same commitment and value-base which has made us feel that striking is a necessary extension of our advocacy for service users who are not receiving the standard of care they need.
Each day we are out on strike we are hoping that you will meet with our UNISON reps in order to secure a resolution that will bring this dispute to a close.
Barnet Mental Health Social Workers
“66% of Mental Health social workers in post since 1 January 2023 will have left Barnet Council within the space of last 12 months”.
Day 76 day since UNISON issued Barnet Council with official notice of strike action for Mental Health social workers working across three acute Mental Health social work teams.
To date there has been no approach from Barnet Council to try and reach a resolution despite UNISON proposing several possible solutions.
Today, Barnet UNISON was informed that another one of our strikers had handed in their notice. This means that in the space of 11 months of 2023 16 social workers will have left the Mental Health Teams involved in this dispute.
What has alarmed our members has been the ‘macho approach’ to this dispute. Instead of seeking to find a way to resolve the escalating social work crisis management have taken a strategic approach which amounts to ‘burying their heads in the sand’ with the hope that it will all go away. The following statement was reported in Community Care Magazine 31 October 2023:
“In a statement to Community Care, Barnet’s cabinet member for adult social care, Paul Edwards, said that 30 of the 31 posts were already filled, by 26 permanent staff and four locums.”
The above statement implies that there are 31 social work posts across the 3 Mental Health Social Work Teams. This is incorrect there are in fact only 21 social work posts across the three social work teams which means that with the 14 staff already gone that represented 66% of the social workers in employment on 1 January 2023 had left the above teams before UNISON issued the strike notice on 1 September.
Another two more social workers have handed in their notice, meaning that 66% of the social workers in post since 1 January 2023.
The question UNISON has for Barnet Council is this:
“How many more social workers need to hand in their notice before you come to the negotiating table?”
The only people who lose are Mental Health service users living in the London Borough of Barnet where there is a 15-month waiting list.
The clock is ticking.
Earlier this month UNISON National issued a statement to say:
“UNISON met with the other trade unions (Unite and GMB) earlier this week, and we did our best to encourage a resolution to the 2023 pay dispute – emphasising the need for members to receive their pay rise as soon as possible. Ultimately, the outcome of the meeting was to reconvene in late October, after the current GMB industrial action ballot closes. Unite are currently taking industrial action in some local authorities. Since the process cannot move forward unless the NJC trade union side has reached an agreement, we cannot proceed until this is the case.”
Barnet UNISON will report back to members as soon as we find out what happened at the meeting with UNISON, Unite and GMB.
The table above shows the NEW GRADES IN YELLOW.
If you don’t know what Grade you are on please contact your supervisor or email Barnet UNISON at email@example.com or leave a voicemail message on our office number 0208 359 2088 (the voicemail is checked every day).
Once the National Pay offer has been agreed, it will be back dated to 1 April 2023.
Barnet UNISON will always speak up for our members regardless of employer. We are a trade union, and our role is to organise and support members in the workplace. The last 13 years Austerity policies have had a detrimental impact on our members. Many of our members are exhausted, overworked, stressed out and the cost-of-living crisis is plunging many of our members into debt.
Our branch has organsied many strikes over the last couple fo decades.
However, in our recent strike of Mental Health social workers there appears to be a change in approach towards Barnet UNISON. This is surprising and disappointing that we are now under a Labour Administration. Many of our members are expecting things to be different than when the Tories were in power. Its 17 months since the last election and by 12 October, Barnet UNISON will have taken 20 days of strike action which is more than we had under the last 6 years of the Tories.
To those who keep asking, Barnet UNISON has tried to keep an open dialogue with Barnet Labour Party.
Below are a list of concerns:
1. Barnet Council have refused to talk to Barnet UNISON about life and limb cover. This is the first time in 28 years of being a Barnet UNISON rep in Barnet Council that this has happened. “This never happened under the 20 years under Tory rule in Barnet Council.”
2. Barnet Council emailed staff before the strike asking members to respond if they were taking strike action. Whilst the employer can do this, this is the first time they have done this in the last 28 years . “This never happened under the 20 years under Tory rule in Barnet Council.”
3. Barnet UNISON wrote to the Chief Executive pointing out the email to members was intimidatory and that senior managers should approach me about Life and Limb cover. Barnet UNISON was assured that senior managers would contact me. We have had three days of strike action and another 3 days of strike action this week and to date no one has contacted me. “This never happened under the 20 years under Tory rule in Barnet Council.”
4. Managers have sent several managers to one of the workplaces to in our view to try and intimidate our members. These managers never go to this workplace, and they don’t work in Mental Health Services. This is a childish act which is backfiring. However, the message is clear that management in Adult Social Care are trying to sidestep having to deal with Barnet UNISON. This never happened under the 20 years under Tory rule in Barnet Council.
5. Barnet UNISON has seen an email sent by a senior manager to a UNISON member who was on strike and therefore unable to respond, asking if they were taking strike action. This email shows that senior managers had no plan for life and limb cover. We know because some of our members were contacted on the picket line. This is a shocking lack of respect for the service but towards Barnet UNISON. This never happened under the 20 years under Tory rule in Barnet Council.
Before Barnet UNISON members took strike action Barnet Council had been claiming for 9 months that there were no recruitment and retention issues.
On the eve of the formal strike ballot Barnet Council changed their minds and said that there was a recruitment and retention issue but not just in Mental Health but across Adult Social Care. They made an offer of 2.6%.
Barnet Council have consistently denied that they need recruitment and retention payments but last year in a report on Mental Health services they agreed to a recruitment and retention payment (6.2%) for one job role.
Barnet Mental Health social workers rejected the 2.6% deeming it an insult.
Barnet UNISON members working for Adult Social Care have rejected the 2.6% and Barnet UNISON will be registering our claim in a formal meeting on 11 October. If an agreement cannot be reached the issue will be escalated to a meeting with the Chief Executive. If we do not reach an agreement at this meeting a formal dispute will be raised, and Barnet UNISON will be requesting a lawful strike ballot for these members.
Our members are clear that the only way for the service users to receive they urgently need is for the Council to address the chronic staffing issues.
- Already the wait for an initial screening, which should be completed in 5 days as per the policy is now 12 weeks.
- The waiting list is now up to 14 months.
The service is in crisis, but managers are in denial.
Each day of strike action increases the waiting lists. The longer senior management fail to take this seriously pushes the service deeper into crisis.
Since 1 September 2023 two staff have already left and there are more planning to leave if things don’t change.
Now is not the time for macho politics. Senior management need to come to the table with a sensible offer. If Family Services can pay up to 25% on top of basic, then Adults need to match it.