Vital services hit by mass strikes

Dozens of schools were closed today and frontline services disrupted as thousands of workers went on strike.

Strike 3 PM 10
Unison rep Dave Willetts with members Richard Turner, Hilary Mellor, and Brian Hollins at Stafford Council offices on the July 10, public sector strike.

Teachers, firefighters and council staff were among those taking action.

Bitter disputes over pay, workloads, pensions and cuts have led to the mass strikes, which has seen more than a million public sector workers walk out.

Council bosses admitted disruption was 'inevitable'.

Picket lines were forming across the Black Country and Staffordshire, with union bosses saying they were sending a 'clear message' to the Government.

Large rallies were taking place, including in at Wolverhampton Civic Centre and at Staffordshire Place in Stafford.

Unison said the cuts had left many of its members had been left struggling to get by.

See a list of West Midlands school closures here.

Over 80 West Midlands schools are expected to close today after the two biggest teaching unions called strikes

Its Staffordshire branch secretary Steve Elsey said: “Taking strike action is never easy but our members are sending a clear message to the Government that they have had enough.

"Low paid women make up the backbone of most local councils and they deserve to be paid a decent wage."

"Unison calls of the employers to get back into talks immediately to avoid a damaging dispute.”

Strike 2 PM 10
Unison Staffordshire branch secretary Steve Elsey, and Sheila Hemming and Tonia Atherdan at Stafford Council Offices.

More than 100 schools were closing in the Black Country and Staffordshire.

Home helps, lollipop men and women, refuse collectors, librarians, dinner ladies, parks attendants, council road safety officers, caretakers and cleaners were joining in the strike.

Picket lines will be mounted outside courts, council offices, Jobcentres, fire stations and Parliament in outpourings of anger over the coalition's public sector policies.

In Dudley there were fears that rubbish collections may not go ahead.

Dudley Councillor Rachel Harris, cabinet member for human resources, said negotiations had been taking place with the unions.

Tweet your views on the strikes @ExpressandStar, or leave comments below.

She asked people to put out rubbish collections as usual today - but if they were missed the council would aim to get them picked up from Friday.

She added: "If people have not received collections on the Friday we would ask them to put the waste out again the following Monday."

People visiting council leisure centres, libraries, archives, museums, halls and adult learning centres should check with the venue before setting out.

Walsall Council bosses say residential services for children and bereavement services may be disrupted.

4736577
Unison joint branch secretary Tom Barnsley outside Sandwell Council House in Oldbury.

But they insist they have been in talks with unions to reduce the impact to residents.

Council leader Mike Bird said: "We are aware that some members of staff will be taking part in the national strike action but we will be working hard to mitigate the impact for residents and keep services running as much as possible.

However Staffordshire County Council said it was expecting 'business as usual' for its offices and services.

Deputy leader Ian Parry said: “It’s business as usual - all our offices and services will be open and the public shouldn’t notice any difference.”

In Wolverhampton, strategic director for delivery Keith Ireland said: "Though some disruption is inevitable, we’ll be doing our best to keep this to a minimum.

"Our primary objective will be to make sure that we continue to deliver the critical local services on which so many people depend.”

Strike 7 PM 10
The strike in Civic Square, Wolverhampton.

Comments for: "Vital services hit by mass strikes"

si.bowen

The Unions are like spoilt children who moan there pocket money has been cut even though dad's lost his job.

Welcome to the real world, or would you prefer the fantasy politics they've had in Greece, Spain and Italy? Even France.

There is no 'ideology' behind the 'austerity' and there is even less actual austerity.

As a country we are still spending £107 billion more than we earn each year. Total annual spend is £100billion more than in Gordon Browns last year.

All this baloney about Cameron's millionaire mates is pure hatred from the hard left who have seen their own Labour government squander 13 years, leaving the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition to clear up the mess.

And they are doing a bloody good job. My only fear is their long term economic plan will be torn apart if Labour get in next.

Anyone who votes Labour whilst Balls, Milliband, Harman are still there need their head examining.

Seriously, we might as well all stop going to work if they get back in.

Thehoffsleftsock

Listen, I work in public sector and it is disgusting that we get pay freezes followed by 1% pay rises when cost of living and inflation is 4%plus, but striking is not the action, we voted for this government, next time we don't,

I know we have to tighten purse strings, but don't then give yourselves 25% pay rises (MP's)

markie

I worked in the public sector for 33 years, but it was only when I came out and worked in the private sector for the next 20 years that I realised how good I had had it.

True I had to work harder in the public sector but I think the financial rewards and the terms and conditions were better especially the pension provision.

The MPs stopped voting in their pay rises to avoid this kind of criticism. Much to their embarresment the commission have awarded these huge rises. They have no choice but many of them, from all parties, have pledged to give most of the rise to charity.

Beltane

The firefighters will be loving this - any excuse to strike!

The Exiled Baggie

People are lfet with no choice by a government who dont listen to the working classes. Announcing 'permanent austerity' at a gala dinner when they were eating off gold plates and cutting services to the children, sick and disabled, giving billions in tax cuts to the rich and friendly, taking billions from the disabled, forcing people out of their homes when there are no smaller ones to move into, cutting services in councils, selling off whole sections of the NHS which is paid for already in our taxes, giving billions in 'contracts' to service providers for workfare who are not creating jobs just moving people about and off the official figures, giving multi national companies free workers through the above schemes rather than paying a living wage. All these are reasons to strike, reasons for all of us to be angry but I guess if you make one group of the working classes hate another it lets the rich and influential off the hook when it comes to looking after the country as a whole.

ps. you are working class if you work for a monthly salary or weekly wage, it matters not whether you own your home, you are working class so dont be fooled into thinking you are better than anyone else who fights for their right to live in the present system.

Margaret Hamilton

Excellent piece, agree entirely.

markie

That makes the MP's working class along with us, doctors, teachers and bankers.

What class do pensioners and the unemploed belong to?

yeltzer

You got several things wrong. Selling off whole sections of NHS as in Tony Blair's PFI? Cutting children, sick and disabled services as in by the councils? Face it , it sound better from them to say they need to cut these services rather than cut their allowances and perks. Nobody told the councils to cut services to children/ sick or disabled, it is the councils decision to do this and theirs alone. Nobody has cut benefits but the rules and regulations have been upheld forcing a lot of fraudster off benefits, you object to this? A lot of the tax concessions to companies you talk about were made under the last government and don't forget the tax concessions the unions benefit from, as well as several prominent MPs OF ALL PARTIES. Less than nine percent of ALL MPs come from working class backgrounds.Most MPs come from privileged backgrounds and many have never worked except for the party, many as interns receiving no pay just a chance to be an MP. And this is ALL PARTIES.

si.bowen

Your thoughts, Exiled Baggie, seem as well considered as your use of paragraphs.

Permanent austerity? Our deficit is to hit £1.3 TRILLION very shortly. That is debt saddling our children, and probably their children, for spending that is going on today.

A trillion is quick to say but to try to quantify the scale there is the following analogy. To count to a million apparently takes 11 days. To count to a billion takes 3 years. To count to a trillion would take 30,000 years.

Your points are emotive and spurious. Cutting services for children, the elderly and disabled sounds awful, obviously, but they are being protected where possible.

You say 'forcing people into smaller homes' where I would say 'limit subsidies for non-workers living in houses most of the working population couldn't afford'.

You say tax cuts for rich people, where is the evidence for this?? Thank god for the rich because they pay the lion's share of the tax that allow us to fund the creaking NHS, pay for children's services, care for the vulnerable.

The rich (and more people are being dragged into that classification) are paying much more tax under a Conservative lead government than at any time under Labour.

If you want to rail against the world and how unfair it is Exiled Baggie then fine, just don't confuse this desire for apple pie and kittens for everyone with possessing a political opinion.

middley

Ask the branch secretaries of the unions how much their salaries are plus car and petrol allowance, when I found out it made me think about the union I represented and the falseness of the lot of them. When I needed the union (GMB) to fight my case on a wrongful dismissal (chosen for redundancy wrongly) they disappeared up their own backsides and never even had the bottle to contact me to tell me, that was 3 years ago, and I was a shop steward !

GMudd

For an alleged shop steward you seem to be very ill informed!

Union branch secretaties get no car and petrol allowance because union work isn't carried out on behalf of the employer.

Also their salary can vary from as little as 14k (for a full timer) as the salary is determined by the post they were originally seconded to union duties from. With long serving branch secretaries, they usually remain on the wage they were originally decades ago in their previous substantive post!

middley

I stand corrected I actually meant the "union outside officials" and the main man at the top, but surely the branch secretaries are only paid as good as the numbers are in their branch(s), that's how it used to work, so I can imagine it would be a fair few judging by the numbers there are it the public sector, so they haven't had an increase from decades ago ?. If you are employed by the union I would take them to court,, so the minimum wage doesn't mean them then ?

si.bowen

Are you saying that branch secretaries still get paid by the taxpayer, for a job they no longer do?

Margaret Hamilton

Isn't it an amazing coincidence how wages and working conditions ( the length of the working week, poverty wages, zero-hours contracts for example) have gradually fallen to this third-world state since the Tories (and I include New Labour in this) emasculated the Trade Unions? Historically, we have an awful lot to thank the Trade Union movement for, which many of the people moaning about the strikes today thoughtlessly and selfishly take for granted. It won't be long before we are all back to where we were in the 19th Century.

charlie.bear.5836

It's a less amazing coincidence that all this has happened since the last Labour government imported a hefty chunk of the third-world through its open-door immigration policy.

Unsurprisingly, wages have stagnated due to the huge cheap labour pool this created while Blair and Brown encouraged the youth into debt while gaining unusable degrees.

Still, the "right's nose was rubbed in diversity" so it was a price worth paying, eh Margaret?

Margaret Hamilton

As completely irrational as ever, thank you Charlie for putting those kind words into my mouth. Do you do anything original at all?

charlie.bear.5836

Not my words Margaret:

http://www.express.co.uk/comment/columnists/leo-mckinstry/442943/Mass-immigration-was-a-mistake-Come-off-it-Jack

Labour's own.

charlie17

Margaret, you are correct, Unions were important a long long time ago. If you consider the people on strike, not one teacher or qualified nurse is on the bread line but some workers in the NHS and some Council employees are. It does however have to be recognised a Headmaster or CEO or Director in the NHS earning £100,000 a year would get an increase of £20 weekly but the person on minimum wage would only get about £2.80 a week. Suggest that the Unions should consider not allocating any of the funds available to anyone earning £25,000 annually, but a more substantial increase to those on minimum wage or below £25,000 annually.

The general public may even accept more tax if this was the plan.

Margaret Hamilton

Thanks for your comments Charlie, but it is important to make it clear than no NHS people were on strike, and they are arguably the ones who have come off worst this last 4/5 years.

markie

If the trades unions had behaved responsibly for the 15 years leading up to 1978 the laws restricting the power of the trades unions would not have been necessary. As it is they did not go far enough. Much as I beleive in the right to withdraw labour, I think it is obsene that a vote taken in 2012, involving only a quarter of the workforce can be used to justify a strike today, as with the teachers.

I can remember how one man, Red Robbo, used the car industry workers as a weapon to pursue his extreme left wing political views.

Finally, thank you to all those who did the right thing and worked today.

I too

The article title should read " Vital services hit by Tory presence".

The people who struck made a stand and had their pay docked. Self sacrifice which is more than the many commentaries here would ever do. They are so self centred they do not have any causes to stand up for.

In the end you get what you pay for .Unfortunately, low pay demoralises the overworked staff who then lose any goodwill they had and it reflects in a lowering of the service standards. You get a poor service because goodwill has disappeared. Losing goodwill is cheap because it is never ever payed for. Management wake up!

si.bowen

We get it, you're dissatisfied with your job, lots of people are.

You think the boss is an idiot and you're undervalued, it's the same for everyone.

You can't blame this on the Conservatives though.

I dare you to look into UK PLC's finances and then make a suggestion as to what to do.

You could start by reading the posts above with your other eye open.

nick_thompson82

If you aren't happy with your pay then move to another job or change career - thats what happens in the private sector.

It's not hard to fill out an application form for another job is it?

If you think that low pay leads to poor services then the let the taxpayer decide what level of service they are willing to pay for.

I work 60 hours a week so that people like you can work a 35 hour week. Frankly, I would be more than happy for your pay to be cut so I can pay less tax.

charlie17

I would agree with you that low pay demoralises the work force, but it is generally the lower paid in the public services who go on strike with the Managers, Directors, CEOs, permanent Under Secretaries and other high paid Civil Servants that receive the biggest increase when a settlement is agreed. If the Trade Unions were really interested in the low paid they would take the 1% on offer and give a large reward to those on the living wage or below and nothing to the people on average wage or above. The unions are however politically motivated, but the general public understand this and do not support them.

I too

Wrong

Wrong

Wrong

It is too easy to make false claims as you do sib

Why bother reading trash twice? Wrong again

Not doing very well - like the Tories and their leader.

Goodwill costs nothing but it is ruined by Tory management believing that they can save the country by punishing the needy at the expense of tax cuts for the wealthy.

OK, lets hear it from you scroungers etc etc are the runination of this land while the Universal credit is being rubbished! Any savings being made are paltry in comparison to the tax dodges of UK Plc and non-Uk Plc.

Fence sitter prompting false discussion again under pseudonym.

Oh by the way the Tories reduced the 50 % tax rate - so they are helping the rich.

We should be prepared to pay more tax for the essential services and their staff pay. Then again the rich buy what they want elsewhere not from public services, too common.

End of.

si.bowen

Glad to see you're a fan of balanced, fact-based discussion.

Not entirely sure I qualify as anonymous seeing as I post under my real name.

Labour brought in the higher tax rate as a temporary measure in the very last few months of their 13 year folly.

Political trap for when the Conservative party returned to sort out the mess (helped by Lib Dems who get some unfair shelacking)

What is disgusting is Liam Byrne's letter to his replacement at the Treasury once Labour were finally kicked out.

Normally these letters contain useful advice, briefings et cetera...

One sentence.

Dear Chief Secretary,

I'm afraid there is no money.

Kind regards and good luck,

Liam

Breathtaking arrogance. Wanton recklessness. The architects of this are still front line Labour policy makers.

From nearly falling off the cliff and suffering the fate of Greece, Ireland, Spain who now have generations with no hope and no prospects, in the UK we now have millions more real jobs, an increase in spending on the NHS (a move that Labour opposed and called reckless) no income tax for people earning less than £11k a year, an above inflation increase to the minimum wage with more, bigger increases in the pipeline. Low interest rates, low inflation, less red tape, a return of high standards in education and a long overdue shake-up of the benefit quandary.

The trouble is, we are still spending billions more than we earn using (thankfully) cheap credit. Cheap mainly because of the actions of the coalition.

There is a long-term economic plan that this government need to be in power to implement.

Labour politicians have time and again shown they have no idea regarding the economy.

This means that Labour voters are literally a threat to all of our wealth.

They are a threat to our ability to pay for an ever-expanding NHS.

They would limit the help we can give to the lowest paid and most vulnerable in our country.

If the economy returns to the Labour 'all the cash has gone' Party we risk our children and children's children being saddled with bankruptcy before they are born.

Forget All Qaeda or ISIS, the biggest single threat to our future in the UK are those who vote for Labour out of loyalty to a previous generation.

If you vote without checking the current facts, without challenging the 'caring Labour' and 'nasty Tory' motif that is so lazily bandied around, then you may be loyal to your previous generations, but in doing so are you betraying your future generations?

At least have a think about it.

Stanna

Going on strike actually helps the local cash strapped councils as they have to pay out less in wages. It would be much more effective for the unions to instruct the whole of it's membership to work to rule.