SOCIAL workers in Helensburgh and Lomond, and across Argyll and Bute, have given their overwhelming backing to strike action in a dispute over standby payments.

Members of Unite and Unison Scotland working for Argyll and Bute Council’s social work department took part in 'consultative ballots' over the payments their members receive for providing an on-call service outside normal working hours.

Unite members voted 100 per cent in favour of strike action.

Unison members voted 78 per cent in favour of going on strike, but 100 per cent in favour of action short of a strike.

Both unions say they will now take the next step towards formal ballots of their members for industrial action.

In a joint statement, the unions claimed that Argyll and Bute Council pays “well below” the Scottish Joint Council social work standby rates.

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Alison MacLean, regional officer for Unite, said: “Unite’s members have completely lost patience. We have tried to resolve the issues and concerns for years now, but the workforce has been continuously ignored.

“That’s why 100 per cent of our members voting in a consultative ballot supported strike action.

“The reality is that the service is at breaking point with precarious working practices contributing to stress and anxiety, which ultimately puts both the social workers and the service users at risk.

“Getting the correct standby rates paid is the starting point.

"Argyll and Bute Council needs to fix this issue by committing to meaningful dialogue without further delay, or our members will be forced to take action, which could have devastating impacts on the service and the communities they serve.”

Unison Scotland branch secretary Mary Watt added: “Our members have been raising issues about the unsustainable nature of the social work emergency service for years.

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"We could fill a bath with tea and sympathy from management.

“Our members are clear they now need concrete action. An important first step is Argyll and Bute Council honouring the national agreement on social work standby rates.

“We have written to Robin Currie, the leader of the council; Kieron Green, the chair of the health and social care partnership; and Pippa Milne, the council’s chief executive, urging them to step in and avoid industrial action.

“Hopefully they will see sense and implement the national agreement and thus create the space to address the many other issues that need tackled to ensure the emergency service is safe and sustainable.”

A spokesperson for Argyll and Bute Council said: “We value the work done by social work services, and are keen to see negotiations continue with the trade unions as a constructive route to address concerns.”

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