Region prepares for biggest day of industrial action in a generation

Schools to close, council buildings to shut, services will be suspended as thousands of workers plan to stage 24 hour walk out

Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire Teachers march through central London in support of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) during a one-day walkout by teachers across England and Wales who are protesting against changes to their pay, pensions and working condition
Teachers march through central London in support of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) during a one-day walkout by teachers across England and Wales who are protesting against changes to their pay, pensions and working condition

Hundreds  of schools are to close and council services will be shut down on one of the biggest days of industrial action in a generation taking place on Thursday.

It will involve thousands of North East teachers, firefighters, health workers, council staff and civil servants who will join up to 2 million colleagues nationwide in a 24-hour walk-out in a protest over pay, pensions and work conditions.

Bin collections will be suspended, council buildings including libraries will be closed, even burials and cremations in some areas will be temporarily stopped.

But perhaps the most controversial aspect of it will be the sweeping closure of schools.

The region’s local authorities are still assessing exactly how many won’t open for the day but it looks like the majority of them will be shut.

Mike McDonald, Regional Secretary of the National Union of Teachers which has 20,000 members in the region, said: “Teachers are extremely reluctant to strike because of the impact on children’s education.

“However they feel that this current Government’s attacks on education will cause far more damage.

“Morale in the profession is at rock bottom, teachers are wasting hours on pointless paperwork and scores are quitting in their first years because of unmanageable workload, uncertain pay and worsening pensions.

“Children deserve teachers who are motivated, enthused and valued. Education Secretary Michael Gove would do well to engage properly with the profession and address teachers’ concerns to end this dispute.

“For teachers, performance-related pay, working until 68 for a full pension and heavy workload for 60 hours a week is unsustainable.”

In Newcastle, amongst the buildings that close for the day will be the Grainger Market. Leisure and health centres and libraries face widespread closure while bin collections across the region due for that day will be suspended.

Those affected are being encouraged to use local waste facilities if they are able with the normal service resuming for them the following week.

In Sunderland, the industrial action also means that there will be no cremations or burials on Thursday and the registration service will also be closed.

Dave Smith, Chief Executive of Sunderland City Council, said: “This is a national dispute affecting public services across the country.

“And although it’s not entirely clear at this stage how many employees will take part in the industrial action, we are anticipating widespread disruption to council services and we have planned ahead on that basis.

“We will be doing everything we can to protect the most vulnerable members of the community and ensure that services to them are maintained. We ask members of the public to bear with us during this time and we apologise for any disturbance to normal services resulting from this national dispute.”

As well as the NUT, the Fire Brigade Union will be taking part in the day of action protesting at changes to firefighters’ pensions and a later retirement age.

Meanwhile the GMB, Unite, UNISON and the Public and Commercial Services Union are protesting over pay rates.

A pay freeze was imposed in 2010 for three years followed by a 1% increase last year and the same offer this year.

They say that represents an 18% fall in pay in real terms, back to the level of the 1990s.

Nicky Ramanandi, Unison’s Deputy Regional Convenor and a local government employee said: “The pay offer from the local government employer is derisory in the extreme.

“This year’s pay offer would see 90% of school and local government workers receive a further pay cut. The offer of a 1% pay rise if you earn £7.71 per hour or more, or if you earn below that it is slightly more to take us just above the National Minimum Wage.

“This pay offer does not keep pace with price increases and our pensions will suffer. This pay offer is nowhere near enough.”

For details on how the day of action is affecting your local school, visit our website Journal.co.uk

Readers are also being encouraged to visit their local council’s website as the full details of how the industrial action will affect services is finalised.

For details of how the day of action is to affect your local school, visit our website www.thejournal.co.uk

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