Council staff to stage second one-day strike

Employers raise possibility of re-opening negotiations with the unions
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The Independent Online

Council workers are to stage another national strike over pay, union leaders announced today.

Council workers are to stage another national strike over pay, union leaders announced today.

Staff ranging from refuse collectors to school assistants in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will walk out on 14 August, threatening huge disruption to council services.

The workers will also launch a campaign of selective industrial action from that date.

Officials from Unison, the Transport and General Workers Union and the GMB decided on the fresh industrial action at a meeting in London today.

It will be the second strike by council workers following a stoppage on Wednesday, which was the first national action since the 1979 Winter of Discontent.

Unions are seeking a pay rise of 6 per cent and have rejected the employers' offer of a 3 per cent rise.

Local authority employers have warned they cannot afford to increase their offer without cutting services or jobs.

Unions estimate that three–quarters of a million workers joined Wednesday's strike, which closed schools, libraries, museums and leisure centres across the country.

The union officials later announced that a third strike will be held in September.

Heather Wakefield, national official of Unison said: "In the face of the employers' refusal to reopen talks we are escalating our campaign of industrial action.

"It will be a disaster if the employers and the Government take off on their summer holidays and leave in their wake chaos on this huge scale in local government.

"Our door remains firmly open but the employers must be in no doubt that something significant has to come from them to prevent this action."

Members of the Government including the Prime Minister are expected to be on their summer holidays when the August strike is held.

Jack Dromey, national organiser of the Transport and General Workers' Union, urged local authorities to return to negotiations and claimed there were signs that the employers were split on whether to improve the offer.

"We stand ready to talk but there can be no progress unless the employers abandon 3 per cent in favour of a better deal, especially for the lowest paid workers."

David Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said the only way the dispute would end without further industrial action was if employers returned to the negotiating table.

John Edmonds, general secretary of the GMB, urged the Government to put pressure on local authority employers to resume talks.

Ministers had wasted no time in previous disputes on the railways in demanding that arbitration was sought, said Mr Edmonds, adding: "Why are they not prepared to even urge local authority employers to sit down and try to find an end to this dispute."

Local authority employers repeated today that their 3 per cent offer was "reasonable and fair", but suggested that a longer deal, over two or three years, could be discussed as a way to resolve the dispute.

Employers leaders said after a meeting in London that any approach by the conciliation service Acas for resumed talks would be positively accepted.

"The employer agenda on any such talks could include the possibility of a two or three year deal," said a statement.

"Employers have always been prepared to be fair and reasonable. Our discussions today offer a way forward. I hope the unions respond positively," said Brian Baldwin, chairman of the employers' side.