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Vital services hit by mass strikes

Wolverhampton | News | Published:

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

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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."

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

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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.

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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.

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."

The strike in Civic Square, Wolverhampton.

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