Page last updated at 11:22 GMT, Tuesday, 15 July 2008 12:22 UK

Chaos looms over council strike

Full bins
Rubbish bins may not be emptied for the duration of the strike

Schools gates could stay shut and rubbish remain in the street uncollected if council workers walk out in a planned two-day strike over pay.

Unions say 600,000 staff across England, Wales and Northern Ireland are prepared to walk out on Wednesday after rejecting a 2.45% wage offer.

Unison and Unite are asking for a rise of 6%, or 50p an hour.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said a council survey showed less than a quarter of staff would take part.

If one out of every four workers do walk out it will mean about 325,000 out of 1.3m council staff affected by the dispute will be on strike, the LGA said.

Tens of thousands of civil servants, including coastguards, immigration officers and driving test examiners, will also stage a series of strikes over the next 10 days in separate pay disputes.

'Final offer'

The LGA survey found that services most likely to be affected by the strike were refuse collection, schools and adult social care.

But council bosses said the strikes were an exercise in futility as the 2.45% pay deal was "their last and final offer" and industrial action would not change that.

If the pay settlement is any higher, then councils will be forced to make the unpalatable choice between cutting frontline services and laying off staff
Jan Parkinson
Local government employers

Jan Parkinson, managing director of the local government employers, said: "It is disappointing that the unions are taking council employees out on strike when only a small minority of their membership voted for industrial action.

"The settlement on the table is affordable for the council taxpayer and will also make sure that local government continues to be an attractive place to work."

She added: "If the pay settlement is any higher, then councils will be forced to make the unpalatable choice between cutting frontline services and laying off staff. Neither unions nor employers want to see this happen."

The employers have written to the two unions urging them to reconsider the strike, stressing that the current pay offer is the final one.

'Hard work'

But Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said this was "a prime example of wishful thinking" and that the resolve of members who voted to take action remained "solid".

He added: "Local government workers cannot afford to take another pay cut which is what 2.45% means.

"The employers are sitting on billions of pounds in bank accounts - money that our members have saved through their hard work and efficiency - which should be used to settle this dispute."

The government has lost all credibility in its attempts to portray low-paid public servants as the causes of inflation, rather than its victims
Mark Serwotka
Public and Commercial Services union

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) announced that driving test examiners would strike on Wednesday, while staff at the Valuation Office Agency are to take industrial action on Wednesday and Thursday.

Home Office and Land Registry workers will strike for part of Friday, coastguards will launch a 48-hour stoppage the same day and employees at the Identity and Passport Service will strike for 72 hours from 23 July.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "This will prove to be a determined week of solidarity among public sector workers facing a brutal attack on their living standards from a government desperate to cling to a widely discredited pay policy.

"With food and energy prices rising even faster than inflation, millions of workers are struggling more than ever to pay their bills.

"The government has lost all credibility in its attempts to portray low-paid public servants as the causes of inflation, rather than its victims."


SEE ALSO
Councils draw up bin strike plans
11 Jul 08 |  Northern Ireland
Council wardens strike in job row
03 Jul 08 |  Merseyside
Council workers asked to strike
01 Jul 08 |  Scotland

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