One-day strike action costs Lancashire workers £223,000

Public sector workers on strike in Preston

Public sector workers on strike in Preston

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County Hall withheld almost a quarter of a million pounds in wages from striking workers in one day, it can be revealed.

Thousands of Lancashire County Council employees, including hundreds of teachers, staged a one-day walk-out in the summer as part of national industrial action.

Now data released through Freedom of Information laws shows on that one day in July, £222,866.85 was held back in unpaid wages.

County council officials outlined the final figure could be even higher, as the statistic was based on July and August payroll deductions, and strike absences that have not yet been put into the HR system by line managers are not included in this figure.

The authority said the money will stay in its general cash pot, while union bosses suggested it should be invested in job creation or support schemes.

David Borrow, deputy leader of the county council, said: “That money will remain in the general pot unspent, to be spent on other things that the council feels would be necessary.

“I am aware of occasions with other authorities where a request was made for money not paid out to be used for a good cause. I am not aware that this has happened in Lancashire.

“If a request was made by staff reps, we would look at it.”

A spokesman for the county council added: “This money

creates a small underspend on the relevant staffing budgets, contributing to our overall financial position.”

Meanwhile, union chiefs say the money should be put into services for staff.

Sam Ud-Din, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) divisional secretary, said: “Yes, they have saved a significant amount of funds – that happens every time there is a strike.

“Whether they are holding that back from the money that goes to each school and each school says we had 10 numbers off so that’s £1,000 off our wage bill, so we can put that in a pot for something else, or if that money just gets lost in the pot, we don’t know.

“It seems like setting up a support service for employees would be a good use of money.”

Lynn Collins, North West TUC regional secretary, added: “The large amount of money just shows how big the sacrifice is that workers make when they take strike action. It’s a last resort and no wonder when a quarter of million pounds is lost in pay.

“The money should be put to good use inside the council. At a time of cuts to services it should be re-invested, with possibilities around job creation or apprenticeships to tackle the scourge of youth unemployment. Better still, the council may look to re-invest the money into pay for its low -paid workers.”

LCC needs to save around £300m from its budget in the next four years and is set to cut 2,500 jobs by April 2016.