OVER 800,000 Unite and UNISON council workers in England, Wales and the north of Ireland are taking strike action today and tomorrow, furious at the employers’ pay-cutting offer of 2.45%.
Public sector union UNISON said yesterday it is expecting a huge turnout, with social workers, librarians, school meals workers, refuse collectors, surveyors and teaching assistants manning picket lines from early morning.
A UNISON spokeswoman told News Line: ‘With everyday essentials like food and petrol going up, as well as gas and electricity bills, our members cannot afford to take another pay cut.
‘We know that the local government employers have £3 billion sitting in the bank which could be used to settle this strike.
‘That money has been saved by our members through efficiency savings.
‘The employers do not need to put up Council Tax, go to the government for more money, or cut services to settle this strike.
‘We are expecting a good turnout, members are very angry at the 2.45% offer, which is just 20p an hour for those on the bottom grade.’
The union is holding protests and rallies across the country, with members in London assembling at Lincoln’s Inn Fields at 1pm and marching to a 2pm rally at Friends Meeting House, Euston.
Meanwhile North West UNISON has accused ‘intransigent local government bosses’ of trying to terrify hard-up workers into believing a pay rise will cost them their job.
UNISON said yesterday: ‘This is an unfounded and cruel claim being used to frighten people off going on strike.’
UNISON North West Regional Secretary Frank Hont said defiant workers would be walking out unless employers come up with an acceptable offer.
Unite said its members were walking out from midnight last night.
Unions are pressing for a 6% deal or an increase of 50p per hour, whichever is greater.
Unite said: ‘In recent months, local authorities have saved £77.5 million a month, yet many of their employees earn less than £6.80 per hour.
Peter Allenson, Unite (TGWU) National Organiser for the Service Sector said: ‘Our members are living on the breadline yet they have been offered a pay cut when rising living costs are causing working people to struggle.
‘The public will ask why a pay cut is forced on some of the country’s lowest paid workers while their employers hoard multi-millions in savings.
‘Neither though can central government sit on the sidelines doing nothing. With 61% of local authority income coming from central government, they have a clear responsibility to ensure these workers earn a living wage.’
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