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Millions of council workers to stage strike over pay

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Business news

Council workers are to stage a fresh strike over pay, raising the threat of an autumn of discontent by millions of public sector employees against Government policies.

Unison, the GMB and Unite, which represent over a million local authority workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, said their members will walk out on October 14.

The workers, including librarians, cleaners, refuse collectors, teaching assistants and school meals staff, went on strike on July 10 in protest at a 1% pay offer.

The unions said no further meetings have been held despite an offer of talks, adding that council workers’ pay has been reduced in value by 20% since the coalition came to power.

The move followed an earlier announcement by the Fire Brigades Union of a fresh round of strikes by firefighters in England and Wales in a separate row over pensions.

Heather Wakefield, head of local government at Unison, said: “Employers and government must be left in no doubt that we are serious in this dispute.

“As sister unions, we stand together to make sure that our members are treated with decency and respect. Our members cannot afford to carry on propping up local services through their pay packets.

“Many are low paid women who are being forced to resort to food banks and payday loan sharks just to survive. We need to put the heart back into local government by paying a living wage.”

GMB national officer Brian Strutton said: “Our members deserve a fair pay deal and we have to fight together to achieve that. Council leaders should reconsider their parsimonious pay offer and do the right thing by their staff.”

Unite national officer Fiona Farmer said: “Local government workers have had years of real pay cuts, working harder to deliver vital local services while being paid less and struggling to make ends meet.

“Low paid members unable to afford basic essentials are having to choose between heating and eating. On October 1 the national minimum wage will overtake local government pay scales. We need fair pay, not poverty pay.”

Health workers are currently being balloted for industrial action in a separate row over pay, which could lead to strikes in October.

A series of walkouts could be held in the week beginning October 13.

More than 400,000 members of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), Unison, Unite and the GMB are being asked if they want to take action.

The unions said NHS staff including including nurses and midwives are angry over the Government’s refusal to accept a recommended 1% pay rise.

Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the RCM, said: “Hard working midwives are deeply concerned that the independent pay review body is being ignored and the NHS pay structure threatened.

“Midwives are at the end of their tether. They have already accepted long-term pay restraint and changes to their pension and terms and conditions. Meanwhile, they are working harder and harder to deliver high quality care with continuing shortages of midwives and daily pressures on services.

“In the history of the RCM there has never been a ballot for industrial action. Of course it goes without saying that if it is necessary to take action RCM members will not put the safety and care of women and babies at risk.

“NHS staff have to be valued and fairly rewarded for the work they do. Staff that are demoralised cannot deliver the quality of care that NHS users, including mothers and babies, deserve.

“I hope the Government joins the RCM and other unions at the negotiating table, reconsiders their position and seeks a solution.”

Firefighters, teachers and civil servants are involved in long-running disputes with the Government over issues including pensions, jobs, pay and conditions and have all taken strike action in recent months.

The TUC is staging a national demonstration on October 18 over pay.

A Local Government Association spokesman said: “Most local government staff did not vote to strike and the vast majority did not take part in strike action earlier in July. We expect the majority will be in work as normal on 14 October.

“This year’s offer would increase the pay of most of our employees by one per cent while those on the lowest salaries would receive increases of between 1.25% and 4.66%. This is at the limit of what councils tackling the biggest cuts in living memory can afford.

“The sooner Unison, Unite and GMB accept this pay offer, the sooner this money can reach our employees who have been waiting for it since April.”

 

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