Page last updated at 05:43 GMT, Wednesday, 16 July 2008 06:43 UK

Council workers strike over pay

A picket line on Wednesday
The industrial action is also taking place in England and Northern Ireland


A two day strike by local authority workers over pay has begun in Wales.

Services across all 22 Welsh councils have been disrupted by the action with schools, leisure centres and libraries closed and refuse collections hit.

The strike has been called by unions Unison and Unite over a pay offer of 2.45%. The unions want 6%.

The action began at midnight on Wednesday and will end at midnight on Friday morning. Councils said plans were in place to limit the impact.

It is thought that around 600 of the 1,800 schools in Wales are shut because of the strike.

This is more than during the recent National Union of Teachers strike in April in which around 500 schools were closed and another 400 partially shut.

The industrial action has also affected graduation ceremonies for hundreds of Swansea university students.

These have been moved from the city's historic Brangwyn Hall to a marquee on the campus provoking an angry response from students.

Local authorities are doing everything possible to ensure that disruption is kept to a minimum
Steve Thomas, Welsh Local Government Association

Union members will gather for a protest rally at John Frost Square in Newport at 1100 BST where they will hand out leaflets and peanuts to passers by to highlight their claim that council workers are low paid.

There will also be rallies outside County Hall in Ruthin, Denbighshire and outside the library buildings in Llandudno, Conwy.

The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) said it was inevitable some front line services would be affected by the strike with the most likely being refuse collection, schools and adult social care.

Swansea graduates on Wednesday
Swansea University's graduation ceremony was moved from the Brangwyn Hall to a marquee

"But local authorities are doing everything possible to ensure that disruption is kept to a minimum, preparing contingency plans and appropriate staff cover where possible," said Steve Thomas, WLGA's chief executive.

"This will ensure that vital services provided to the most vulnerable in our communities are maintained.

"We urge members of the public to contact their local authority for the latest update on services affected by this week's industrial action."

Mr Thomas added there was "little appetite" for the strike by the Welsh local government workforce and claimed there had been reports of union resignations.

"All this has led to considerable uncertainty over staffing levels which might have made the potential impact of the strike seem greater than it is," he said.

There is no need to ask the Government for more, no need to put up council taxes and no need to cut jobs or services
Dave Prentis, Unison

Unions say the pay offer for workers in town halls, school canteens and refuse depots is a real terms pay cut because of the current rate of inflation.

They are pressing for a 6% rise or an increase of 50p per hour, which ever is greater, arguing that local government can pay for this out of the efficiency savings town halls have made so far this year.

Peter Allenson from Unite said its members were working on the breadline.

"The blame for this dispute and the disruption to essential services sits squarely on the shoulders of the local government employers," he said.

"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."

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, which has 60,000 members in Wales, said the strike action had been the last resort.

"Local government employers are sitting on 3bn worth of efficiency savings made by our members they could use to settle the strike now," he said.

"There is no need to ask the Government for more, no need to put up council taxes and no need to cut jobs or services."

But Mr Thomas from WLGA said the strike would have no impact in making additional money available and that 2.45% was its "last and final offer".




SEE ALSO
Council strike: Services hit
15 Jul 08 |  Wales
Council staff agree strike dates
24 Jun 08 |  UK Politics
Council workers vote for strike
23 Jun 08 |  UK Politics
Darling calls for pay restraint
22 Jun 08 |  UK Politics

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