1,500,000 public sector workers prepare to strike

Ministers in crisis talks as ‘unsustainable’ wages blamed for decision to stage massive walkout

Coalition ministers have been summoned to a crisis meeting before one of Britain’s biggest ever strikes next month. Around 1.5 million refuse collectors, social workers, town planners, librarians, care home staff and other local government employees are expected to walk out of work for 24 hours on 10 July.

They are infuriated by a pay offer that will result in workers on a salary of £14,000 and above being given only a 1 per cent increase, while those at lower grades will be paid little more than the minimum wage. The industrial action is likely to be supported by up to 500,000 teachers and civil servants.

Union leaders warned this weekend that, following the 2011 public sector walk-out over pension reforms, the coalition will have presided over Britain’s two biggest post-war strikes. Ministers whose briefs cover the public sectors that will be affected by industrial action, such as those in the Department of Local Government and Communities, will meet within the next two weeks to discuss how to keep Britain running through the strike.

Unite and Unison are currently balloting their members, who are expected to vote for the strike having already rejected the pay offer. The third main union involved, the GMB, last week notified the Local Government Association (LGA) that it is about to hold a similar ballot.

The LGA represents the 6,000 employers, mainly local councils, involved in the dispute. Unions demanded that the LGA pay all workers an extra £1 an hour. Unison now wants £1.20, as there has been a 20p increase in the living wage since the claims were submitted.

It argues that typical local government workers have seen their real pay reduced by 20 per cent since the coalition came to power, as increases have fallen far behind inflation. Union sources also said that negotiations were “very hard” as the LGA had “failed to engage properly”.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said last night, “I know how angry our members are at feeling the worth of their pay plummet over recent years. Many have to rely on benefits, food banks or resort to payday loans to make ends meet. This cannot go on. Pay freezes and squeezes are not sustainable as this Government will soon find out.” As rises have been restricted in recent years, so the minimum wage has started to catch up with that of the lowest-paid council workers.

Those on the lowest salary of £12,435 currently receive around £6.45 an hour. The LGA wants to increase this to £6.75, only 25p more than the minimum wage will be when the next rise takes effect in October.

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail (inset below) said it was “time to take a stand” and that “anger is mounting” among public service workers. She added: “While the Tory-led government has been giving tax breaks to millionaires, local council and NHS workers have been pushed to breaking point. Poverty pay and four years of pay freezes has resulted in many seeing their take-home pay cut by almost 20 per cent in real terms.”

Brian Strutton, GMB national secretary for public services, warned that “schools will shut, bins won’t be emptied, meals on wheels not delivered – this is one of the two biggest post-war strikes”.

Recent local election results meant that Labour become the biggest group on the LGA for the first time in a decade. However, LGA sources said the change will have no impact on its tough stance over pay.

A spokesman for the LGA said: “The employers made their full and final pay offer at the earliest opportunity in order to ensure that our employees would receive their pay increase as quickly as possible in the new financial year.

“We’ve always been available to talk to the unions but the integrity of the negotiating process depends on us being honest when there’s no more room for manoeuvre. Strike action will not change the pay offer but will instead delay by some months extra money getting into employees’ pockets.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Arts and Entertainment
James Hewitt has firmly denied being Harry’s father
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley ((C) Red Productions/Ben Blackall)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: LGV Driver - Category C or C+E

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This national Company that manu...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - OTE £30,000

£13000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Assistant

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Maintenance Assistant is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?