Social work staff in West Dunbartonshire, Scotland, have voted in favour of taking strike action, claiming that unacceptable workloads are putting vulnerable clients at risk of harm.
The Unison union have revealed the results of a series of strike action ballots that took place in West Dunbartonshire last week. When the decision was made to consider strike action, local union officials warned that social workers feared their service was at “crisis point” as there were around 250 children without an allocated worker. Staff in the area feared that the council faced a “Baby P-type incident” if measures weren’t taken to address the dangerous working conditions caused by dozens of social work positions remaining vacant. They felt that voting on strike action was the only way to bring about meaningful change.
Unison have now announced that 92.3% of their members have voted to take strike action and 100% voted in favour of action short of strike action, from a 87.8% turnout.
Speaking to The Clydebank Post, Unison’s regional organiser Simon Macfarlane said:
“This is a phenomenal result and clearly illustrates the resolve of our members to stand up to unacceptable workloads and unsafe practices in West Dunbartonshire. This is about the safety of workers and vulnerable children and their families and our members are to be congratulated for taking a stand.”
“Unison will be meeting management and is calling for immediate action to put an end to short staffing, unacceptable workloads, unallocated cases and unsuitable arrangements for access meetings”
Macfarlane continued with a warning to management that immediate changes were needed to prevent this action going ahead.:
“Management must heed this crystal clear message from our members and we will not hesitate to move to a formal industrial action ballot to keep our members safe. This is the reality of needless austerity in 2019, workers at breaking point and at-risk children unsupported.”
“We have raised our concerns beyond West Dunbartonshire and welcome that Peter Macleod, chief executive of the Care Inspectorate and Lorraine Gray, chief executive of the Scottish Social Services Council, have both confirmed they are raising the matter with the council and the Health and Social Care Partnership.”
“It is now time for the council administration and management to act and ensure the safety of workers, children and families.”