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Barnet social workers out for five days in history-making strike

It's the longest mental health social workers' strike in the history of Unison
Issue 2888
Barnet strikers in Unison purple bibs and holding purple and white Unison "Official picket" placards

Barnet strikers have won wide support

Mental Health social workers in Barnet, north London, launched five days of strikes on Monday in their fight over pay.

Workers are demanding a recruitment and retention payment to match their work and so that the council can hold on to its experienced staff.

Currently, only family services social workers receive the supplement. This means a new qualified social worker in family services can earn more than those working in mental health services.

The service, staff say, is facing chronic staffing issues, with some people waiting up to 15 months to be seen.

The Unison union members had already struck for 17 days before this week, making it the longest such strike in the history of the union.

Barnet Unison branch secretary John Burgess said, “Social workers are determined to ensure they are rewarded fairly for the challenging jobs they do. Failing to pay them properly means many will continue to leave the sector.

“Experienced staff simply can’t afford to keep working in the profession. This is having an impact on residents who rely on this vital service.”

The union says, “Mental health social workers are looking for a recruitment and retention payment of 20 percent. Barnet council offered adult social workers the equivalent of a 2.7 percent payment—for two years only.

“It is only when we have stable staff numbers and staff with significant experience, in addition to the newly qualified staff, that Barnet Council will be able to lower waiting lists and provide the timely and quality care that our members want to give to residents.”

Libby Nolan, the president of Unison, said “United we are strong. This action from Unison members is in defence of their jobs and to protect the services under attack from further cuts and profiteering.

What you can do
  • Send a solidarity message to the strikers. Email [email protected]
  • Visit the picket lines 5-19 January between 8am-12.30pm at 2 Bristol Avenue, Colindale, NW9 4EW
  • Make a donation to the Barnet Unison Industrial Action Fund. Email the office at [email protected] for details.
  • Sign Barnet Unison’s email campaign to Barnet council’s chief executive. Go to

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