SUNDERLAND could once again grind to a halt after a second major strike of the year by public sector workers was announced.
Thousands of local government and school support workers on Wearside who are part of the Unison trade union will walk out on Wednesday, September 30.
The row centres on an issue over pay and follows widespread disruption on July 10 to councils, schools and fire services, when more than a million public sector workers across the country withdrew their labour.
Schools, libraries, museums and council officers were shut and bins went unemptied across the city as part of the action earlier this month. Caretakers, teaching assistants and other school staff took part in the action, alongside teachers.
Ahead of the latest planned strike, Unison has urged the Local Government Association (LGA), who award pay to public sector staff, to take part in further talks and resolve the dispute.
The union says that 90 per cent of local government and school support workers are receiving a one per cent pay rise after three years of pay freezes and below-inflation pay rises.
Unison’s Sunderland representative, Helen Metcalf, said today that because of lack of progress in talks with the LGA since the walkout earlier this month, the union feels it has “no other option” but further action.
“We haven’t had an improved offer from the LGA since the July 10 strike, which is disappointing,” said Ms Metcalf.
“We never take strike action lightly and don’t want it to affect people, but what can we do?
“We’ve seen a drop in wages of around 15 per cent as the pay increases haven’t been keeping up with inflation, even though we know the rises would be affordable.
“It’s crunch time for people who work in local government and the fact that workers are prepared to take a further day of action to get what they deserve shows the strength of feeling.”
General secretary of the TUC Frances O’Grady said: “In local government – and right across the public sector – workers believe ministers neither care about nor understand the pressures on their already stretched household budgets.
“Meanwhile, the Government seems happy for the public purse to miss out on billions through income tax cuts for the wealthy and corporation tax reductions for big businesses, yet says there’s no money to give a decent pay rise to struggling care assistants, nursery workers, dinner ladies and other local authority employees.”
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