Schools shut as strike hits Sunderland

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PUPILS across the city are getting an extra day off today as teachers take part in a national walk-out.

The vast majority of both primary and secondary schools across Sunderland and County Durham were closed this morning as members of the National Union of Teachers joined other unions in the strike.

And it wasn’t just schools affected, as the whole city was expected to be hit in some way with other unions including the Public and Commercial Services, PCS, Unison, GMB, the Fire Brigades Union, FBU, and Unite all walking out.

Sarah Lake, branch secretary of Sunderland NUT, said: “The NUT is joining forces with other public sector unions to protest about the Government’s one per cent pay rise, which not even all teachers will get.

“This represents another effective pay cut for teachers and other public sector workers. As well as inflation outstripping our pay rise, we have had to pay more for our pensions over the past two years and for this we will have to work longer and receive less.

“A Government survey last year showed that secondary teachers are now working around 56 hours a week and primary teachers around 60 hours a week. We believe this is unsustainable.” Some Unison members who work in academy schools, were unhappy that they were not able to strike.

One primary school classroom assistant, who did not wish to be named, said: “The school I work at has just become an academy and I got an email from Unison to say if I strike, I could face disciplinary action.”

Helen Metcalf, Unison regional organiser for Sunderland, said it was a national decision by the union not to ballot academy school members because they technically work for private organisations and the legal situation for striking is unclear.

She said: “It is very disappointing, but we couldn’t take the risk of our members being disciplined. It is something which we will be looking into further.”

As well as most schools being closed or partially closed all day, almost all of the city’s customer services centre, libraries, leisure centres and museums also shut. Bin collections were halted and there will be no cremations or burials today.

Sunderland City Council and Durham County Council said they would would do everything possible to minimise the impact of the strike, especially to the most vulnerable members of the community.