Public Sector Strike Threatens Huge Disruption

Up to two million public sector workers may strike today, threatening major disruption to schools and other services, according to union leaders.

Teachers, refuse collectors, firefighters, home helps and librarians are all expected to walk out over pay, pensions and spending cuts, unions say.

Also expected to strike are dinner ladies, parks attendants, council road safety officers, caretakers and cleaners, as well as civil servants.

The walkout threatensmajordisruption at schools and other council buildings, including courts and leisure centres. Household bins may also remain unemptied.

According to the NUT, more than 200,000 teachers could take part in the action.

Picket lines will be mounted outside courts, council offices, Jobcentres, fire stations and Parliament in outpourings of anger over the coalition’s public sector policies.

The TUC said public sector workers are 2,200 worse off under the Government, while half a million council employees earn less than the living wage.

But the strike has sparked another pledge by David Cameron to change employment laws after it emerged the NUT strike ballot saw just 27% of members taking part.

Senior Conservatives and business leaders have been pressing for a new law, setting out a 50% threshold in ballots.

While union leaders say up to two million workers could take part in the action, ministers say they believe most staff will go to work as usual.

One of those taking part in the action is teaching assistant Sharon Graham, from Northumberland, who had to take on an extra two part-time jobs to make ends meet

“I feel like we are so underpaid. We all like our jobs, but we don’t think we are appreciated.

“And the money that we earn – you can’t survive with the bills you are getting in. I worked out 75% of the teaching assistant staff have a second or a third job.”

Meanwhile, mother-of-three Katrina Poole, from Bristol, is unimpressed by the industrial action, which means she will have to make special arrangements for her children.

“I know teachers work very, very hard, but they’ve got 13 clear weeks off school and maybe they could deal with this outside educational time,” she said.

National Union of Teachers (NUT) general secretary, Christine Blower, said: “Teachers deeply regret having to take strike action.

“However, despite months in talks with Government officials, the real issues of our dispute over pay, pensions and conditions of service have not been addressed.”

TUC general Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The Government has just announced that real pay cuts will carry on to 2018 and people can’t see light at the end of the tunnel.

“The only way they feel the Government will listen is by going on strike.”

The Government insists it is not turning a deaf ear to the workforce, but maintains there is not enough money to increase its 1% pay offer.

A Department for Education (DfE) spokeswoman said: “There is no justification for further strikes. The unions asked for talks, we agreed to their request and talks are ongoing.”

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