SUNDERLAND could grind to a halt tomorrow as thousands of local government workers go on strike.
Members of unions including Public and Commercial Services (PCS), Unison, GMB, National Union of Teachers (NUT), Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and Unite will walk out nationally.
Although it is not clear how many employees will take part, Sunderland City Council has warned the action was likely to affect most of its services, with many council buildings closed.
Most schools in Sunderland will shut, although some will remain open and others will partially open for some year groups. Some children’s centres will be closed.
All customer service centres will be closed along with libraries. The Civic Centre will also be closed.
All leisure centres and wellness facilities, including Sunderland Aquatic Centre, will also be closed – though the Raich Carter Sport Centre will remain open. All museums will be closed.
Bin collections will be hit, while Beach Street household waste and recycling centre will be closed. The industrial action also means that there will be no cremations or burials on the day.
“We have to make the point that this is not just about pay, but the future of the services that our members provide,” Unison’s Sunderland organiser Helen Metcalf told the Echo.
“One per cent is a cut in real terms of 20 per cent since the coalition government came to power, and that would see almost 90 per cent of our school and local government workers receive a further pay cut, rather than a pay award.
“The chancellor committed that everyone earning under £21,000 would receive and extra £250, but this has never been paid.”
She added: “We don’t take strike action like this lightly, but people coming out when they are already suffering, shows just how strong the feeling is, that people just can’t afford to live on this anymore.”
Chief executive Dave Smith 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.”
Durham County Council says that although it has taken steps to minimise the impact on emergency and essential services, most council buildings will be closed to the public. An up-to-date list is available at www.durham.gov.uk/schoolclosures. There will be no waste collections, but household waste recycling centres will open as normal. Firefighters will walk out – between 10am and 7pm – as part of the long-running dispute between the FBU and government over pensions, and people are urged to take extra care to protect themselves from the risks of fire.