For the attention of all Social Work Members,

You will be aware that UNISON and Unite have been pursuing issues concerning the SWES for several years. These include the current standby rate and non-pay issues such as training, exemptions, and work/life balance. We know that resolving the standby rate will not resolve the other issues. Due to lack of progress last autumn we asked you to sign a petition making it clear that we wanted the standby rate resolved as of 1 January 2021, in order to create the space and time to focus on these other issues.

Our aim is for an overall solution to be implemented on 1 January 2022. We are not confident that the timescale will be adhered to unless we take firm action now.

A paper proposing the council adopts the Scottish Joint Council rate for Social Work Standby (currently £31.28 per session) went to the SLT in March and was further discussed at the SWES Working Group on 10th of March. At the SLT concerns were raised by HR with regards to potential equal pay issues (adopting the SJC rate for social work would mean there being different standby rates for different jobs within the council). The SJC (Cosla and UNISON, Unite & GMB) negotiate the rates. It has been confirmed management have recently met with counterparts in Shetland Council who confirm SJC SW standby rates are paid there. We have confirmed this too. So, what is the issue for Argyll and Bute?

Despite all the time and effort, we have no timescale or commitment from the Council/HSCP to implement the SJC rates.

We therefore conclude that it is necessary for us to consult you on taking industrial action and enclose with this mailing a ballot paper. This is not a formal industrial action ballot, that would be carried out by post and would be a secret ballot. This is an exercise to demonstrate to the union that members are prepared to take action and also to show the strength of feeling to the employer. Unite will be carrying out a similar exercise with their members.

Due to the challenges of working from home and because not everyone who works in Social Work is affected by the standby issue, we are asking you to complete a form alongside your vote. How you vote will not disclosed to anyone, it will just be aggregated in the overall result. We will though use the form to flag up on our membership system those members who are in scope should we need to go to a formal industrial action ballot.

We are asking all Social Workers who carry out standby, would be likely to be asked to carry out standby or have an exemption to complete the form. This includes those who make themselves ‘available’ on the islands.

We repeat we are not asking you to take industrial action at this point. We are though asking you to advise if you are willing to take action should it be necessary.

UNISON asks two questions in industrial action ballots. Action short of strike action can include working to rule and overtime bans.

UNISON always engages constructively with employers to ensure ‘life and limb’ cover is in place during industrial action.

UNISON is recommending you vote yes to both questions!

Please download the form here:

Please complete your form and return it by email to by 12 noon on Wednesday 31st March 2021.

We ask that you please check colleagues who are involved in SWES and are UNISON members have a copy of this and please pass on if required.

Finally, can I remind you to if you have not already done so to vote in the separate ballot on the consolidation of the Living Wage and changes to Local Government Employees local terms and conditions, that ballot closes on 24th March 2021.

Yours sincerely

Mary Watt
Branch Secretary