Second strike day hits council services

THOUSANDS of public sector workers in Suffolk and Essex will take a second day of industrial action today in a dispute over pay.

THOUSANDS of public sector workers in Suffolk and Essex will take a second day of industrial action today in a dispute over pay.

The walkout of council employees yesterday disrupted services across the two counties with a small proportion of schools, libraries and record offices forced to shut.

Some rubbish collections were also cancelled and calls unanswered as Unison members made their feelings felt on a below-inflation pay rise of 2.45% on the first day of the two-day strike.

In Ipswich around 30 workers formed a picket line outside the Endeavour House headquarters of Suffolk County Council, while staff also gathered outside Ipswich Borough Council offices across the road.

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It was estimated by Unison that 50% of all Suffolk County Council employees took some form of action, with 14 schools forced to close.

But a council spokesperson said for the majority of services it was “business as usual”.

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Meanwhile two thirds of staff based at Ipswich Borough Council's Grafton House were estimated to have not entered the building yesterday.

Helen Muddock, acting branch secretary of the Suffolk arm of Unison, said: “We are really pleased with the support we have received at the picket lines.

“We have had good feedback from staff and colleagues and services have been disrupted.

She added the strike was the last resort but the only way to get a fair deal.

Malcolm Brown, the branch chairman of the Ipswich Borough Council Unison, said: “Many of our members are actually on the minimum wage and quite clearly 2.45% to them when you take into account rising fuel, food and mortgage costs makes it just impossible for them to continue.

“I hope the public understands that we are not targeting them.”

He added all of the environmental health inspectors were on strike and the majority of planning, building control and housing staff are also taking action.

A spokeswoman for Ipswich Borough Council said: “Bin collections will take place as normal, but cleansing services will be limited.”

In west Suffolk services were said to have remained largely unaffected. A spokesman for St Edmundsbury Borough Council said they were operating all services normally including bin collections while Babergh District Council said they had a separate pay agreement with staff and were unaffected by the two day strike.

A Forest Heath District Council spokesman said they had closed offices in Newmarket, Mildenhall and Brandon but elsewhere services were operating normally.

In Chelmsford residents were hit by a vastly reduced refuse system, with only one crew operating around the Rooks Cresent area and no recycling collections taking place yesterday or today.

Speaking from a picket line outside the Clacton Town Hall, Kumar Sandy - a regional officer for Unison - said 28 workers from Tendring District Council had come out on strike. But he said support for the industrial action was far more widespread in the area.

“The difficulty they face is they just can't afford to lose two days pay by going on strike.

“If you are only earning £6 an hour, to lose two day's pay can be very hard,” he said.

He added that walkouts had also taken place at Braintree District Council and Chelmsford Borough Council.

Mr Sandy added that Colchester Borough Council was unaffected, however, as union members there do not form part of the national bargaining unit.

Nationally more than 500,000 members of Unison and Unite walked out in the biggest outbreak of industrial unrest to hit councils for years. The action closed thousands of schools, libraries, museums, sports centres and council offices, although the figures were disputed by employers.

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