BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Business  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
E-Commerce
Economy
Market Data
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Saturday, 6 July, 2002, 10:58 GMT 11:58 UK
Council workers warned over strike
Emergency refuse collection in Leicester Square in 1979
The strike could be the biggest stoppage since 1979
Refuse collectors, social workers, school meals staff and other council workers have been warned not to go ahead with a planned strike in a dispute over pay.

More than 1.4 million local government workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have voted for a series of one-day stoppages, with the first scheduled for 17 July.

Local authority employers had offered a 3% pay rise but the unions rejected it and demanded a rise of 6%.

The councils have told the unions that they will not get a higher pay offer by going on strike.


What we seek - 6% - will only give a minimum wage of 11,000 a year

TGWU general secretary Bill Morris

If the stoppages go ahead, they will be the first national council workers' strikes since the 1979 Winter of Discontent that helped bring down the Labour government.

Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU) general secretary Bill Morris told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It is 23 years since local government workers cast a single ballot vote in anger.

"Their employers have consistently ignored their very just and reasonable demands year after year."

Tony Blair has refused to be drawn into the row.

Speaking at a conference in London on Saturday, the prime minister said he understood negotiations were continuing and hoped they would be successful but would not comment further.

The union Unison said that every local authority in the country was facing recruitment and retention problems.

National officer Heather Wakefield said: "How long before the employers wake up and see that the solution is a better pay deal?"

'Exorbitant'

Jack Dromey, national organiser of the TGWU, said council workers had had enough, adding: "They care but are not cared for by their employers."

He added that he was "disappointment" that Mr Blair had not offered a word of support to low paid public sector workers.

Mick Graham, national officer of the GMB union, has said a 3% rise is the equivalent of less than 15p an hour for some of the country's lowest-paid workers.

But Local Government Association chairman Sir Jeremy Beecham called it "fair, above inflation, and all that councils can afford".

The workers are the biggest bargaining group in Europe and include cleaners, school meals staff, refuse collectors, social workers, architects and housing benefit employees.


We are worth 30,000 a year and, if necessary, will be balloting our members to strike

Geoff Ellis, of the Fire Brigades Union
Councillor Brian Baldwin, chairman of the employers' side, has said no council could afford the "exorbitant" claim and warned that thousands of jobs would be lost if the claim was accepted.

But Bill Morris said councillors had voted themselves a 60% increase in their allowances and chief executives earned between 60,000 and 160,000 a year.

"What we seek - 6% - will only give a minimum wage of 11,000 a year," he told Today.

Sir Jeremy denied that all councillors and chief executives had been offered large rises.

"There may be some cases where there have been significant increases - but that is not universally true.

"Most councils have independent bodies determining their level of allowances."

Firefighters are also threatening to strike.

Geoff Ellis, of the Fire Brigades Union, told Today: "We are worth 30,000 a year and, if necessary, will be balloting our members to strike."

"The job of a professional firefighter has changed incredibly since the last pay increase in the 1970s."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Mark Mardell
"Local government workers' first strike for 23 years"
Heather Wakefield, Unison
"Six per cent is not a great deal for our members at the bottom of the pay structure"
See also:

28 Feb 02 | UK
04 Jul 02 | England
12 Jun 02 | England
Links to more Business stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Business stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes