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Local Government and school support workers set to strike over pay

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: July 08, 2014

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Carers, social workers, highways engineers and teaching assistants will be among thousands of local council and school support workers in Staffordshire set to strike on 10 July as part of a nationwide action over pay.

Unison members will be picketing from 7am at County Council Buildings around Staffordshire

The Con-Dem Government has had local government pay and conditions squarely in its sights since 2010. A pay freeze in 2010, 2011 and 2012 and below inflation rises in eight of the last seventeen years has sent the pay packets of local government and school workers plummeting back to the level of the 1990s.

Many council workers in Staffordshire have been left struggling to get by, with some relying on foodbanks, second jobs and in-work benefits to make ends meet. This year’s offer would result in a cumulative real-term cut of almost 20% for more than one million local government and school workers.

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UNISON is urging the employers to get back to the negotiating table with an offer that recognises the invaluable contribution members make to their local communities.

Steve Elsey, UNISON branch secretary said:

“Council workers have kept on going in the face of four years of draconian Government cuts to keep local services in Staffordshire running. They care for our elderly and our vulnerable, keep our roads safe and educate and look after our children. They deserve better treatment than they have had at the hands of this Government.

Taking strike action is never easy but our/my members are sending a clear message to the Government that they have had enough. Low paid women make up the backbone of most local councils and they deserve to be paid a decent wage.

UNISON calls of the employers to get back into talks immediately to avoid a damaging dispute.” 

UNISON’s local government and school support members have delivered a decisive verdict for strike action on the 10th of July. By taking the incredibly difficult decision to lose a valuable day’s pay, our members have said that enough is enough.

We are asking the Local Government Association employers for a £1.20 an hour minimum increase for all. This would bring the bottom rate of pay in local government to the level of the Living Wage, and help restore some of the pay lost across the whole workforce.

We believe that all local government and school workers deserve to be paid at least the Living Wage.

The Con-Dem Government has had local government pay and conditions squarely in its sights since 2010. A pay freeze in 2010, 2011 and 2012 and below inflation rises in eight of the last seventeen years has sent the pay packets of local government and school workers plummeting back to the level of the 1990s. This year’s offer would result in a cumulative real-term cut of almost 20% for more than one million local government and school workers.

The latest figures from the House of Common’s library show that the number of people claiming in-work benefits has rocketed by almost 60% under the Coalition.

On top of this drastic decline in basic pay, pay-related cuts at local level are now widespread. Employers have been waging all-out war for several years on unsocial hours payments, hours of work, annual leave, sick pay and even maternity pay. Car allowances have been frozen or cut in most councils over the past three years, leaving many social workers, planners and homecare workers to subsidise their employers in order to do their jobs.

Our claim is affordable. A pay rise for local government and school support workers would be offset by workers paying higher tax and national insurance contributions and receiving less in tax credits and benefits. In addition to this, councils have £19bn in reserves sitting in their coffers.

School and council workers are tired of the Government treating them like they are at the bottom of the pile. They are tired of going that extra mile for worse than nothing. In the wake of Coalition cuts and almost 500,000 job losses in councils alone, they continue to educate and support children in schools, maintain crucial local services, keep our communities clean and safe places to live and protect the homeless and vulnerable.

Politicians from all sides are calling for action to end low pay and introduce the Living Wage. If they are serious, they should put their own house in order and make sure that one million local government and school support workers are lifted out of poverty and given the £1.20 an hour increase we are calling for. 

Schools set to be closed on Thursday include: Meadows School, and Westwood College in Leek

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