Strike threat over public services

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SCORES of services could face disruption if thousands of public sector workers agree to go on strike.

Public sector trade union Unison has balloted 76,000 of its members in the North-East on industrial action in defence of their pensions.

There are 1,750 Unison members working for Hartlepool Borough Council and any strike could have a major impact on town services.

This is the biggest ballot Unison has ever taken, affecting 1.1m members on local government and NHS pension schemes across the country.

Members are receiving ballot papers this week and those affected include local government, NHS, police support staff and transport staff.

Unison say the average pension in local government is £4,000 with that of a woman at just £2,800 a year, less than £56 per week, and in health for women the average pension is around £3,000.

Unison regional convenor Clare Williams said: “Unison is not undertaking this ballot lightly.

“But our members have seen their pay frozen, effectively a pay cut, at a time when the cost of living is escalating.

“Now they are seeing their pensions threatened.

“These are people doing jobs such as caring, educating, making our communities safer, cleaner and healthier.

“Ordinary people who had nothing to do with the financial crisis yet are being made to pay the price.

“We are seeing an unprecedented attack on ordinary working people by this Government, attacks on our services, our jobs and now our pensions.

“After eight months of talks they have failed to move forward - enough is enough.”

A Hartlepool Borough Council spokesman said: “We are monitoring the situation very closely but given that the balllot on industrial action has not yet even taken place, it would clearly be impossible for us to say at this time how the council could be affected.”