Pay strikes could mean school closures

SCHOOLS across Suffolk could shut their doors for 48 hours as part of a 4,000-strong council staff walkout, it has been confirmed.

Russell Claydon

SCHOOLS across Suffolk could shut their doors for 48 hours as part of a 4,000-strong council staff walkout, it has been confirmed.

Local education authority bosses told the East Anglian Daily Times a Unison and Unite strike on July 16 and 17 could force them to close a number of the county's schools where high membership would leave them unable to provide meals, clean classrooms and provide cover for full-time teachers.

As part of the industrial action, which was confirmed on Friday, libraries and several other council services could be affected causing a breakdown in public services over the two days.

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Letters will arrive on headteachers' desks today asking them to find out how many staff are set to walk out over pay.

The council's top human resources representatives will then sit down with union bosses to discuss how the strike will affect each school - with caterers, dinner supervisors and support teachers all potentially walking out.

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Contingency plans will then be mapped out in a bid to keep open as many schools as possible with the resources available, but some look likely to close.

A Suffolk County Council spokeswoman said: “Once we have got the figures we will make appropriate contingency plans. Some schools may remain open and some may not.

“It really depends on how many people will be missing from schools, until we know who the individuals are and where they work we cannot comment any further.”

Amongst the other council services to be affected will be bin collections and grave digging services.

Dave Prentis, Unison general secretary, said the employers must realise they mean business.

“This decision has not been taken lightly,” he said. “But years of pay cuts and recent hikes in fuel, food and housing costs has left them with little choice.”

Nearly 600,000 workers nationally were balloted. They include social workers, housing benefit workers, rent collectors, binmen, dinner ladies, teaching assistants, cooks, cleaners, architects and surveyors.

Members of Unite working in local authorities will also strike on the same day. Both unions have rejected a 2.45% pay offer.

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