Strike off: Chaos avoided as unions suspend action by council and school workers

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STRIKE action which would have brought major disruption across South Tyneside next week has been suspended.

Thousands of local government and school staff were poised to take industrial action over pay on Tuesday, but the strike has been suspended by the Unison, the GMB and Unite trade unions, after new proposals were put on the table by the Local Government Association (LGA).

Action by borough health workers is still set to go ahead on Monday.

A spokesman for the borough’s NHS Foundation Trust pledged to maintain services – although patients could experience some delays.

Merv Butler, branch secretary of Unison South Tyneside, welcomed news that the public sector strike was off.

It is now expected the unions involved will be in negotiations for several weeks before members are balloted on an offer.

Mr Butler said: “I have not got the details of the new proposals, but this is obviously good news for everyone.

“The action would have been very disruptive and would have involved three thousand of our members.

“That action has now been suspended and members will be consulted on the new proposals, which are regarded as being best achievable by negotiation.”

The suspension will avoid the chaos caused in the borough from a day of action on July 10 this year.

More than half of schools in the borough closed on the day – leaving thousands of parents with childcare problems.

Unison’s head of local government, Heather Wakefield, said: “These have been tough negotiations, in a tough financial climate for local government and our members.

“It is right that those members – who are keeping councils and schools going in tough conditions – will now have the chance to make their voice heard by voting on the LGA’s proposals.”

Ian Frame, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust’s executive director, personnel and development, said: “Some trade unions representing staff employed by South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust have voted to take strike action, as part of a national dispute over pay and conditions of service for NHS workers. The strike, on Monday will last from 7am to 11am, but we would like to reassure patients that senior management have plans in place to ensure that services do not have to be cancelled.

“Our management and the trade unions have held useful and amicable discussions to ensure that patient welfare and safety are not jeopardised by any industrial action.

“The unions have offered to provide emergency cover which, in effect, is the level of service that would be available on a public holiday.

“Patients should attend and receive services as normal, however, they may experience delays in some cases due to staff and transport shortages, and may get answer messages rather than personal contact if contacting us by phone.

“We apologise for any disruption and appreciate patients’ and visitors’ patience during this period of industrial action.

“Following the strike, there will be a further period of ‘work to rule’ but, again, we are confident that we can maintain services for our patients.”

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