Town braced for strike

SCORES of services are facing disruption after thousands of public sector workers agreed to go on strike.

Council-run services, schools and some health, care and transport provision face upheaval on Wednesday, November 30 after members of public sector trade union Unison voted to strike in defence of their pensions.

A range of services, from school crossing patrols and bin collections to health and social services will be hit.

Council chiefs say they are keeping an eye on the situation, but say it is too early to know exactly how services will be affected.

The union balloted 1.1m members on local government and NHS pension schemes across the country in the biggest ballot Unison has ever seen.

These include 76,000 in the North-East, with 3,000 in Hartlepool, including 1,750 union members who work for Hartlepool Borough Council.

Police support staff and transport staff are also affected by the planned industrial action.

Unison say members gave a resounding “yes” to the vote to start industrial action at the end of the month.

The strike action follows eight months of talks with the Government who union chiefs say have “moved significantly from their original position”.

Unison regional organiser Howard Pink said: “The ballot reflects our members’ deep anger and concern about the prospect of a tax on their pension scheme coming on top of a two-year pay freeze.

“We hope very much that the Government will move and that we can get into proper and sensible negotiations but as far as November 30 is concerned, we expect that council premises and other workplaces across the area will be subject to strike action.

“While we regret any impact on the public, our members regard it as a schedule to defend their pensions.”

A Hartlepool Borough Council spokesman said: “Clearly this is a national dispute and it is too early to say what the specific impact will be on local services.

“However, we will be monitoring the situation very closely and do our best nearer the time of the services which we know will be affected.”

Don McLure, Durham County Council’s corporate director of resources, said: “The council will always take precautionary measures to try and minimise the impact a strike could have on services.

“In line with best practice, contingency plans will be put in place in response to any such situation.”

Hartlepool has already been hit by strike action this year in separate rows over pay, including for tax office, Jobcentre Plus and law court staff.

In June, 20 of the town’s school’s closed while nine operated limited lessons, with 9,043 pupils missing from lessons as a result of a strike called by the National Union of Teachers (NUT), Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and the University and College Union (UCU).

The news of the strike comes on the day Unison joined in Equal Pay Day, which highlights the fact that women working full-time are earning on average 15.5 per cent less than men.