WORKERS say they have been forced into today’s strike action as services grind to a halt across Sunderland.
Schools, libraries, leisure centres, museums and other public buildings have been shut down today as public sector workers walked out on strike.
Unions say they are fighting for better public services and fair pay for workers who deliver them.
John Kelly, branch Secretary for Unite’s Sunderland City Council branch, said: “Unite is proud to be taking part in today’s strike action alongside our fellow trade unions.
“This is a fight for better public services, and for fair pay for those who work hard to deliver those services.
“Council workers have been targeted to bear the brunt of the austerity measures that have been imposed by millionaire cabinet ministers since 2010.
“Unite fully understand that Labour-run councils like Sunderland City Council are the scapegoats when implementing this Coalition Government’s austerity measures.
“Local government workers, and the communities they deliver services to, believe that local government workers should have fair pay, NOT poverty pay.”
The majority of schools in Sunderland remained closed this morning, although some remained open or partially open for some year groups.
All council Customer Service Centres are closed along with libraries, most leisure centres and wellness facilities, and museums – although the Raich Carter Centre will remain open.
There will no bin collections: homes and businesses will have to wait until next week if they were due to have any of their bins emptied today.
Beach Street household waste and recycling centre is also closed.
There will be no telephone service for members of the public contacting the council, but the Telecare service will remain in operation.
The industrial action also means that there will be no cremations or burials on Thursday and the registration service will also be closed.
Dave Smith, chief executive of Sunderland City Council, said: “This is a national dispute affecting public services across the country.
“And although it’s not entirely clear at this stage how many employees will take part in the industrial action, we are anticipating widespread disruption to council services and we have planned ahead on that basis.
“We will be doing everything we can to protect the most vulnerable members of the community and ensure that services to them are maintained. We ask members of the public to bear with us during this time and we apologise for any disturbance to normal services resulting from this national dispute.”