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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive + incentives + uncapped comms: SThree:...

Ashdown Group: Reporting & Analytics Supervisor - Buckinghamshire - £36,000

£34000 - £36000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Analytics & Reporting Tea...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Developer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a world leader ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future