Pensions strike chaos looming

UNISON protest

UNISON protest

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SCHOOLS and public services across the Fylde coast are set to be hit hard by a mass walkout of public and civil servants.

Union leaders have threatened to cripple the country in the largest national public sector strike – over proposed cuts to pensions – for decades.

Staff from schools, hospitals, local authorities and the civil service will walk out on November 30 following a series of strike ballots by different unions over pensions. They are still in negotiations with the government.

Individual schools are making their own contingency arrangements for the day with parents advised to contact schools directly for more information.

So far the GMB, Unison, Unite, Ucatt, Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, Society of Radiographers, FDA Prospect, National Association of Headteachers, and Chartered Society of Physiotherapy unions have all voted by large majorities to strike, with more ballots to return this week.

Unison’s northern regional convenor Clare Williams said: “People are talking about 10,000 or more people in the north alone – there’s a real buzz.

“The feeling from all trade unions and groups that we’ve been working with is that there will be a massive display of strength on the day.”

Staff at Norcross, Warbreck House and Peel Park will hold picket lines on the day.

Phil Halsall, chief executive of Lancashire County Council, said: “We are aware of the vote in favour of strike action.

“We are already making contingency plans to ensure essential services are provided. However, services will inevitably be more limited.

“Each school will be risk-assessing the impact of the action and whether or not this will enable them to stay open.”

Blackpool Council assistant chief executive Carmel McKeogh said: “We are already consulting with the trade unions to ensure vulnerable members of the community are protected during this action.

“At the moment we don’t know the results of all the ballots so we don’t have a full picture of what the impact will be in Blackpool.”

And Fylde Council’s Allan Oldfield added: “There are talks ongoing that could prevent the strikes.

“If it does go ahead, we have a large union membership so we will focus on essential services – for example, we may collect grey bins rather than recycling waste. There will be exemptions in the strike, such as some social services staff which is sensible.”

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis told the Trades Union Council national congress that unions were involved in the “fight of our lives” over the controversial reforms which will see public sector workers asked to pay around three per cent more into their pension schemes, with various benefits taken away.

The average public sector pension is worth around £5,000 per year.