Schools will shut, bins go unemptied and fire cover will be cut in half during Thursday as public sector workers walk out in an ongoing dispute with the Government.

Union leaders said 95% of council buildings would be closed while a teaching union leader claims morale is at an all-time low.

A West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service chief is urging caution with only half of appliances in use from 10am until 7pm as firefighters join the industrial action.

Nationally up to two million workers will strike in opposition to the Government’s pay and pension proposals.

Among them are local government workers in Unison, GMB and Unite, the civil servants’ union the PCS, the National Union of Teachers and the Fire Brigades Union who are unhappy with a 1% pay rise proposed by the Government.

They are also fighting changes to pensions that could see them having to work longer and contribute more.

Kirklees Council say only a “minimal level of services will be available” such as cover for the care of vulnerable children and adults and for emergencies.

A warning on the council website said: “Bins not collected on the day of the strike will be collected at the next scheduled collection and not sooner.”

At 10.30am tomorrow a huge rally iss due to take place in St George’s Square with a march through the town back to the Square for speeches.

Local government:

Paul Holmes, Kirklees Unison branch secretary, said: “The council is shut to the public - 95% of the buildings will be closed, two or three buildings may open for workers to go in but they won’t be their own offices.

“There’s three things we’re striking for: firstly we’ve had three years of no pay rise and one year of a low pay rise that has driven people to the edge.

Unison secretary Paul Holmes
Unison secretary Paul Holmes
 

“Secondly, we think we’re the only ones that care about the services, everybody else wants to shut them down. We get condemned for closing the council down for a day, but there’s people working behind the scenes to close services down for good.

“The public want these services, our staff want to provide them and they want decent pay and conditions.

“Finally, if people who are the lowest paid workers decide to strike then it shows they are desperate. To lose a day’s pay says it all really because they can’t afford to be striking.

“It is a fallacy that the public don’t support this, we get feedback and we know they do.”

Asked what his message was to the public, he said: “Our staff are working more, with less pay and more poverty, that’s why we’re doing this.

Mr Holmes said it was “inevitable” further strike action would take place, with two days of industrial action possible in September.

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Do you support the public sector strike?

 

Schools:

Hazel Danson, Kirklees NUT leader, said: “There are more schools closed than there was during the March strike action, it shows how fed-up our staff are with the situation the Government has put us in.

“As Unison and the other unions are striking then schools will have to close on health and safety grounds as support staff strike in addition to our teachers walking out.

“We know there are some teachers who don’t want to take action, but there is a feeling of low morale among many of our members, I’d say morale is at an all-time low.”

Hazel Danson of Kirklees NUT and national execuitive committee
Hazel Danson of Kirklees NUT and national execuitive committee
 

Mrs Danson outlined three key issues and said: “The performance-related pay is not only added bureaucracy but there’s an unfairness as well. Educating children is a collective endeavour and we feel it’s manipulated by results.

“The workload is another issue, teachers do not expect to work 9am-5pm, but many are doing 60 hours a week and a lot of it is on data monitoring and accountability, not classroom preparation that benefits the children. Teachers want to focus on improving education for children.

“Then there’s the pension issue, the Government changes mean people will work until they’re 68 to get their pension, but the Government know teachers will retire before then and will lose a large part of their pension which they can’t afford to do.

“Striking is a last resort, teachers are reluctant but the fact members are prepared to do it shows the level of frustration and the deep concern about the impact of the Government’s policy on their workloads and the impact on education.

“We will survey our members after this strike to see what they will be prepared to do on the run up to the General Election.

Fire service:

Firefighters will walk out for nine hours between 10am and 7pm. The normal level of fire cover is not provided, with only half of appliances in use, so fire chiefs are urging caution.

The decision for strike action relates to an on-going dispute between the Fire Brigades Union and the Government over its public sector pension reform programme, with specific concerns about pension changes that FBU say will mean they “pay more, work longer and receive less.”

A spokesman said: “The current proposals by Government are unacceptable, unworkable, unrealistic and nothing short of a “vicious” attack on firefighters’ pensions.”

West Yorkshire’s deputy chief fire officer Steve Beckley called for a resolution and said: “The dispute is between the FBU and the Government, so there is nothing that we can do at West Yorkshire level to resolve it. The differences have reached an impasse but I implore both sides to talk and find a resolution.

“We are still finalising the details but we expect the number of appliances will be in the mid-20s rather than over 50 that we usually have.

“Half to a third of the appliances will be manned by fully-trained firefighters, with the remainder manned by those we’ve recruited to cover. They have basic firefighter training but they don’t have the specialist technical training of professional firefighters in terms of dealing with complex big building fires, but they can attend RTCs (road traffic collisions) and they have breathing apparatus training.”

The fire service is urging people to take a commonsense approach during the strike action and Mr Beckley added: “We will turn out, but the response times will be slower than usual.”

The FBU will step up their dispute with 15 walk-outs from Monday, July 14 to Monday, July 21 from 6am-8am and 5pm-7pm daily, 11am-1pm and 11pm to 1am Saturday and 5pm-7pm on Sunday.

Mr Beckley added: “Next week is a new dimension with 15 strikes over an eight day period, none are at night-time which we are thankful for.

“We’ll continue to provide the best possible public service we can but it’s unlikely we can match the level of cover we’ve put on in the past. It’s possible there will be 20 appliances rather than the 25, but we won’t be as effective and the response times will be slower than usual. The message is stay safe.”

Firefighter advice:

Electrics: Do not overload plug sockets.

Roads: Stick to speed limits and always wear a seatbelt.

Cooking: Do not cook whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs; never leave cooking unattended, even for a moment. If you have to leave the kitchen take pans off the heat and switch off appliances.

Smoking: ensure cigarettes are always fully extinguished; never smoke in bed; always use a proper non-combustible ashtray – never a bin.

For more safety information visit www.takeextracare.co.uk            

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