Photo Gallery: 94 Norfolk schools affected and council services hit as workers strike over ‘insulting’ pay offer
copyright: Archant 2014
Thousands of council workers, teachers and school support staff across Norfolk are striking today over what they claim is an “insulting” pay offer.
Facts and figures
Workers taking industrial action include:
- Council workers: Over 750,000 local authority workers in Wales, England and Northern Ireland, including home helps, lollipop men and women, refuse collectors, librarians, dinner ladies, parks attendants, council road safety officers, social workers, architects and cleaners.
They belong to the three biggest trade unions, Unison, Unite and the GMB, and are in dispute over pay after rejecting an offer worth 1pc for most employees.
Unions say council workers have suffered below inflation pay rises, or wage freezes, every year since the coalition came to power.
- Teachers: Over 200,000 members of the National Union of Teachers in Wales and England are involved in a dispute over changes to pay, pensions and working conditions which has been going on for over two years. Last year, the union staged a series of regional strikes with the NASUWT teaching union. Between them they represent the vast majority of teachers.
- Civil servants: Almost 250,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services union across the UK, including staff in jobcentres, benefit offices, passport centres, museums and galleries, courts, immigration at ports and airports, driving test examiners and catering workers at the Houses of Parliament.
The union is embroiled in a long-running row with the Government over jobs, pay, pensions, spending cuts, and privatisation of services.
The PCS said some civil servants have suffered a 20% loss of income in real terms since the coalition came to power in 2010.
- Firefighters: More than 30,000 members of the Fire Brigades Union in Wales and England. The union has been taking industrial action since last year in protest at controversial changes to pensions and retirement age.
- Transport for London staff: Hundreds of administrative workers at TfL, members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, in a row over pay, pensions and conditions.
Norfolk County Council reported that 94 schools were affected by industrial action.
Some council services have also been hit as members of trade unions UNISON, GMB, PCS and Unite take industrial action today over a pay offer of 1pc for those earning more than £14,880.
These include Norwich’s Millennium Library, Mile Cross Library and the Norfolk Record Office.
Members of the National Union of Teachers are also joining in the strike action, as part of their ongoing campaign over teachers’ pay, pensions and workload, as are the Fire Brigades Union.
Union leaders said councils would ‘grind to a halt’ during the day of action, while a number of schools across the county have closed their doors.
The Norwich and District Trades Council organised a rally at Chapelfield Gardens in the city. About 600 people joined a march through the city centre streets and heard speeches from union members.
Jonathan Dunning, Norfolk UNISON branch secretary said the 1pc pay offer for local government workers was “insulting”.
He said: “Local government workers have endured a 18pc pay cut in real terms since 2010. An offer of only 1pc when we are told the economy is picking up is an insult.
“Our members have paid for the government’s disastrous austerity agenda with unprecedented job losses; privatization followed by massive pay cuts and increased workloads.
“A 1pc pay increase after all of this is not acceptable which is why our members voted to strike”.
But a spokesman for the Local Government Association said the strike action would not change the pay offer.
He said: “The pay offer we have made would increase the pay of most employees by one per cent while the lowest paid would receive an increase of more than four per cent.
“This is the fairest possible deal for our employees given the limits of what we can afford. This strike will not change the pay offer we have made, but it will mean those who take part lose a day’s pay.”
The FBU strikes, will will run from 10am and 7pm are due to a national dispute between the government and the FBU over changes to the pension scheme.
Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service say the service will continue to deal with any incidents in the best way possible during this time.
A 999 response service will continue to operate and should be contacted in the usual way. If necessary calls will be prioritised as they come in and it is hoped that the public will continue to assist them by placing extra emphasis on their own safety.
Norwich City Council said it had contingency measures in place and that people’s bins would still be emptied.
Broadland District Council said services were running as usual, as the local Unison branch is unaffected by a national strike call.
The branch has been excluded from the national action over pay because a local pay agreement is in force at the council.
Pickets also took place at County Hall, Vantage House, Millennium Library and Carrow Fire Station in Norwich, at Priory House in King’s Lynn, at Great Yarmouth Town Hall, at Ketteringham Depot and South Norfolk House in Long Stratton.
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “Most public sector workers have reported for work today and well-rehearsed contingency plans are ensuring that nearly all key public services are being delivered as usual.
“In past years, unions made inflated claims about how many they thought would participate in strike action. They were shown to be wrong.
“We can confirm that only a fifth of civil servants - fewer than 90,000 - are on strike. That is down from the strike action in March 2013; all 717 jobcentres opened this morning; the majority of schools in England and Wales are open; fire services are operating across the country; and nationally, disruption to local government services is minimal.
“Nevertheless, it is a huge disappointment that once again a handful of union leaders have pushed for irresponsible strike action, which can cause inconvenience and disruption to children’s education and the lives of hard-working families.
“Union leaders are relying on mandates for action that lack authority - the National Union of Teachers is relying on a ballot run nearly two years ago.”
To see which schools are affected, log onto http://disruptions.norfolk.gov.uk/nccclosures_schools.html
• Do you think the workers are right to strike? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.