Brecks council staff plan strikes

A series of one-day strikes which could hit council services to more than 100,000 Norfolk people are being lined up after a vote for action by union members.

A series of one-day strikes that could hit council services to more than 100,000 Norfolk people is being planned after a poll of union members.

Nearly nine out of 10 (89pc) Unison members at Breckland Council who voted in a ballot backed a "yes" motion for strikes, and 99pc supported action short of a strike. A total of 168 of the 340 employees at Breckland are union members, and 96 of them (57pc) voted.

Unison said the support for striking showed the depth of feeling among staff.

It accused Breckland of refusing an offer from the arbitration and conciliation service, Acas, to mediate.

But the council responded by saying that fewer than a third of staff had actually voted "yes" and vowed to put contingency measures in place if strikes were held.

It also said that its pay offer was above the national public sector offer.

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Both parties have kept the door open for more talks, but Unison is planning one-day strikes plus a work-to-rule and is boycotting some council activities.

Unison has to give the council seven days' notice of any industrial action.

The possibility of disruption to services run by Breckland - including leisure centres, environmental health, planning and housing - has moved closer than it has done before during a lengthy dispute about a pay claim and new pay scheme.

It is unlikely that bin collections would be affected, as a separate dispute between workers and contractor Serco - which led to an unofficial work-to-rule last month - has been resolved.

Breckland has offered staff a pay rise of 3pc over 18 months, while the union has asked for 5pc over that period. There is also disagreement on a proposed new performance-related pay scheme.

Chief executive Keith Davis said: "We have been having consultation meetings with all staff and the union over last few weeks and have been listening to our staff's concerns. Our proposal of 3pc compares well with similar public sector deals.

"Our aim has always been to support and reward our staff while giving value for money for residents. We will also ensure that key services are maintained in the unlikely event that any action is taken.

"The ballot for industrial action represented less than one in three staff."

But Unison regional organiser Sasha Pearce said: "The ballot result underlines how angry people feel about the way they are being treated.

"Unison members at Breckland are not militant. Striking is something we don't want to do, and we want to make the point to the employer rather than harming the public. But the council has left us with no other option than to take quite drastic action because they are not listening."

The union claims the 340 staff total quoted by Breckland includes temporary workers and consultants and says several members did not receive ballot papers as they were on leave but would have backed action.