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Thousands of Norfolk and Suffolk council workers could strike over pay dispute

Unison pay day protest at County Hall. Photo: Bill Smith

Unison pay day protest at County Hall. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2014

Thousands of council workers and school support staff across Norfolk and Suffolk could be set to strike over what union leaders describe as a “miserly” pay rise offer.

Trade union Unison will start balloting its members tomorrow over whether industrial action should be taken after 70pc of its members nationally rejected a pay offer of 1pc for those earning more than £14,880.

If there is a ‘yes’ vote and the union’s industrial action committee gives the green light, then industrial action will start in July.

Jonathan Dunning, Unison branch secretary at Norfolk County Council, where some 4,000 workers are union members, said: “Council worker pay has been cut by 20pc in real terms since 2010. We are being told the economy is on the up yet the national employers have offered a miserly 1pc which is well below the rate of inflation.

“With fewer council workers expected to do more work to the same quality this is an insult too far. That is why UNISON members have called for the offer to be rejected and for them to be balloted on industrial action.”

Yesterday, members of the union protested outside County Hall, the headquarters of Norfolk County Council.

Mr Dunning said: “The demonstration is part of a national day of protest that is seeking to draw this to local employers attention in the hope that they will use their influence within the national employers organisation so as to come up with an improved offer.

“If they come up with a meaningful and fair offer I would hope industrial action will be avoided.”

The ballot will start on Friday and last for four weeks, ending on June 23.

But a spokesman for the Local Government Association said the rise was a fair one and that those on lower salaries would get a higher increase.

The spokesman said: “In an unprecedentedly tough financial climate, councils are committing to ensuring that employees receive a pay rise and that the lowest paid receive the biggest increase.

“It is frustrating that Unison has failed to recognise this. We know that these have been difficult times for the local government workforce, which has worked wonders to keep vital local services running while councils are tackling the biggest cuts in living memory.

“In calling for strike action, Unison is further delaying the process of council employees receiving a pay increase this year.”

• What do you think? Do you think Unison members are right to consider industrial action? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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