WISBECH could be plunged into chaos handling an extra 17,000 vehicles a day if, as expected, strikers close Cross Keys Swing Bridge at Sutton Bridge for seven days from Sunday.

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Public services union UNISON says a ballot of members has voted in favour of industrial action “both short of and including strike action”.

Bridge keepers will walk at midnight on Saturday and not return for seven days meaning closure of the ‘gateway to Lincolnshire’ across the Nene.

Approximately 17,000 vehicles who cross between Norfolk and Lincolnshire each day will find the only viable option to be through Wisbech.

A Unison spokesman said: “This will be the first set of strikes in a sustained period of rolling action.”

The strike action follows an ongoing dispute over proposed changes by Lincolnshire County Council to bridge keepers’ terms and conditions.

The union says the new terms and conditions are due to come into force on Sunday and would mean a loss in take home pay of 13 and a half per cent for their bridge keeper members.

“The erosion of their terms and conditions includes the loss of weekend enhancements and paid breaks,” said the spokesman.

“The two bridge keepers earn £18,453 a year and the bridge supervisor earns £22,958 a year and need their weekend enhancements to make ends meet.”

Unison say the bridge is staffed seven days a week 24 hours a day in order to keep both road and river traffic flowing.

“In addition to working unsociable hours the bridge keepers are also on-call four hours before and after their shift starts and ends,” he said.

“They are not paid for this yet are required to live within a 10 mile radius of the bridge”.

Unison steward Tom Street who works on the bridge said “our families can’t afford for us to take such a dramatic cut in our pay.

“Everyone is feeling the pinch with these austerity measures and the cost of living is rising each year. We have suffered a three year pay freeze and now the council want to cut our pay further”.

Unison claims the council will make just £11,500 a year savings from these changes “which is less than the county councillors’ meal bills which amount to £22,000.

“This is very little money to Lincs County Council with a budget of almost a £1billion, but is a lot of money to the staff concerned.

“Pickets will be in operation on each day of the strike and Unison urges members of the public to come along and show their support.”

Lincolnshire County Council confirmed tonight they are aware of the strike threat and are currently preparing a statement.

County councillor Chris Brewis represents Sutton Bridge on Lincs County Council and he said tonight that as far as he was concerned priority has to be given to shipping.

“It’s some medieval thing as far as I am aware,” he said. “If there are no operatives then the bridge stays open- which means closed to road traffic.”

He said the bridge was a “complicated piece of machinery” and so far as he knew there would be issues if it remained open for long periods.

“Clearly there could be enormous problems to the local economy,” he said. “Hundreds work on the food plants one side and many travel to Kings Lynn and Terrington whilst many travel the other direction to work.

“It is mind boggling to consider the number of vehicles who use the bridge- the affect could be catastrophic. It wouldn’t or indeed couldn’t be solved by a ferry.”

Cllr Brewis said the only time he recalled the bridge remaining open for a long period was when a boat in 1998, turning, “broke its back and shut the river. An accident though is one thing; this is another but as far as I am aware the river has preference.”

Sutton bridge district and parish councillor Michael Booth said tonight if the authorities keep the river open “it will be absolutely terrible for motorists and drivers and not good either for Wisbech”.

Cllr Booth said a short period of closure of the bridge in 2000 during the fuel dispute – when the road was blocked by protesting hauliers- caused jams back to Kings Lynn in one direction and Fosdyke in the other.

“I do believe though the law requires boats to have priority,” he said.

Lincs County Council is expected to provide a more detailed response on Tuesday.

The hydraulic swing bridge was opened in 1897 and originally carried road and rail traffic across the Nene.

In 1965 it became a road bridge only and has always given priority to river traffic. It is only open a few times a week to allow shipping into Wisbech.

23 comments

  • Thank you for employing me zur!

    Report this comment

    DocOhNo

    Thursday, March 7, 2013

  • Perhaps its time for a fixed bridge so bloody unions can't make peoples lives a misery. There actions are selfish and self centred and they should ashamed. What about if someone needs the emergency services

    Report this comment

    Sweet cheeks

    Monday, March 4, 2013

  • Depends if it is left open for river traffic or road traffic. Got this image of the Fenland version of Duke of Hazzard.

    Report this comment

    CllrJohnCowan

    Monday, March 4, 2013

  • The employer's intransigence is clearly preventing meaningful negotiations and is an indication of an amateurish management based on the iron fist fist of oppression rather than proper consultation.Lincolnshire County Council really should know better.

    Report this comment

    Peter Watson

    Monday, March 4, 2013

  • Who said "if there is any hope it lies with the Proles"? (sic). As for the Ragged Trouser guys, Robert Tressell (aka Noonan) painted a stark picture of greed and stupidity across the entire spectrum of...greed and stupidity. Stone me! Norfolk will never advance to the enlightened state of Tressell`s "Mugsborough".

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Friday, March 8, 2013

  • A Victorian mill owner writes : " It is utterly disgraceful these workers think they can withdraw their labour after a democratic vote of union members. The working classes should never have been given the vote in the first place. This is what happens when you educate the lower classes. When i were a lad we used to live in an old water tank on a rubbish tip. We got woke up every morning by having a load of rotting fish dumped all over us! .We used to 'ave to get up out of a shoebox at twelve o'clock at night and lick road clean with our tongue. We had two bits of cold gravel to eat , worked twenty-four hours a day at mill for sixpence every four years, and when we got home our Dad would slice us in two wit' bread knife. etc etc ".

    Report this comment

    LARSON.E. WHIPSNADE

    Monday, March 4, 2013

  • I feel I must reply to Larson. E.W because the comments about working class not allowed to vote is totally out of order. How does that person think that his family moved on from living on a rubbish tip ? We all know because we were allowed to be educated and in this democratic country also allowed to vote.

    Report this comment

    Thaicanary

    Tuesday, March 5, 2013

  • Sorry missed a word out there ''make''

    Report this comment

    marshall

    Monday, March 4, 2013

  • I cannot help thinking of The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists when the term "Union Leader" is used. And Mad Beggar , George Orwell was a great supporter of Trade Unions and the culture of working people. As for the ignorant rubbish posted on here ...as the great man said "..Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper”.... Nothing has changed.

    Report this comment

    LARSON.E. WHIPSNADE

    Wednesday, March 6, 2013

  • Btw, I did not see the posting from "Mad Beggar". Was it deleted? I suppose you, Whipsnade, are an expert on Animal matters? Or do you farm it out? Bring back Bookworm. Please. Does Larson have an advanced qualification in "Missing the Point". Obtuse, as ever.

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Friday, March 8, 2013

  • Don't worry Whipsnade, most of us understood where you were coming from :-). While I accept that 'corruption' has existed in many unions and may well still continue in some, they have also been instrumental in securing many of the health, safety, welfare and employment rights that the majority of us enjoy today.

    Report this comment

    Jaguar

    Wednesday, March 6, 2013

  • Those guys at least have a job and should be grateful for that ... they speak of having their wages and way of life being eroded. If you are on a pension the same thing is happening because of inflation and interest rates kept down to help everyone else .. and who do you protest to then, I should like to know. Yes, just think about it if you go on strike .. there are lots worse off than you. Putting in a fixed bridge won't solve it cos you will go on benefits .... at our expense huh

    Report this comment

    Patrick

    Thursday, March 7, 2013

  • Thaicanary. ....Sarcasm , the highest form of wit.The clue is in the " Victorian mill owner " bit.

    Report this comment

    LARSON.E. WHIPSNADE

    Tuesday, March 5, 2013

  • Norton...do as you suggested the people of Milecross do. Get off your fat backside and get a job.

    Report this comment

    LARSON.E. WHIPSNADE

    Monday, March 11, 2013

  • You cannot help thinking of George Orwell`s "Animal Farm" when the term "Union Leader" is used.

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Wednesday, March 6, 2013

  • Do you work sweet cheeks & yarco? Unions don't peoples lives a misery!! Who sorted out min wage and working hours..So if you both work remember it was the unions that sorted your conditions. A good read and you may learn something The Tolpuddle Martyrs

    Report this comment

    marshall

    Monday, March 4, 2013

  • Who said "if there is any hope it lies with the Proles"? (sic). As for the Ragged Trouser guys, Robert Tressell (aka Noonan) painted a stark picture of greed and stupidity across the entire spectrum of...greed and stupidity. Stone me! Norfolk will never advance to the enlightened state of Tressell`s "Mugsborough".

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Friday, March 8, 2013

  • Marshall yes I do about 60 to 70 hours a week and its unions who have destroyed more a more companies and they have cost several jobs and they milk every one of there members. Who is that union crock who lives in a union house with a range rover and a porsche paid for by members. They should be buried once and for all they are just rubbish stirring up trouble

    Report this comment

    Sweet cheeks

    Tuesday, March 5, 2013

  • £18.5k and £23k to sit down and look out of the window all day, money for old rope as they say... and 4 times a week press a pedal and pull a lever. I know people who would volunteer to have a job like that! I can't believe they want to strike.

    Report this comment

    Dave01

    Monday, March 4, 2013

  • Surely it would be less disruptive to close the river to large boats for a week rather than close the road?

    Report this comment

    Betty Swallocks

    Monday, March 4, 2013

  • And, Marshall, it was the Unions who destroyed British Industry with unreasonable demands. Unions have a role to play but constantly overstep the mark. I hope all motorist affected sue the unions for the extra cost in fuel and time lost.......

    Report this comment

    viperman17

    Monday, March 4, 2013

  • I am sure there are many people out in the sticks over there who would jump at the opportunity to have a job as well as earn that amount of money.

    Report this comment

    yarco

    Monday, March 4, 2013

  • We are aware how many vehicles use it a day, how many times a week on average does it have to open for river traffic?

    Report this comment

    mike smith

    Monday, March 4, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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