Public sector vent anger over new pay

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Thousands of public sector workers poured onto the streets of Preston to vent their anger to changes to pay and conditions.

Trades and professions from teachers to town hall workers marched through the city centre for a mass rally in the Flag Market as part of a national day of action.

More than 100 schools across Lancashire were closed as members of the National Union of Teachers were joined on the streets by other public sector workers.

Public services were disrupted as facilities, such as the Harris Library and services within town halls were closed.

People were unable to book cremations and although striking, fire-fighters provided emergency cover for member of the Fire Brigades Union involved in the strike.

Shoppers and supporters lined the route as banner-waving members of six different unions marched from the Corn Exchange in Preston city centre to the Flag market where the crowd was addressed by a host of speakers from Unite, the GMB, Public and Commercial Services Union, the Fire Brigades Union and the NUT.

Andy Burchall, from UNITE, who also chairs Chorley Trades Council, led the rally and said; “This is the first day in a long struggle to say we want justice for the people who do a decent job of work in our society. The people who keep our welfare services afloat.”

Steve Davies from Unite said the strike was aimed at”fighting for better public services and better pay for the people working to deliver them.”

He told a cheering audience: “ No-one should be on poverty pay.”

The unions said they were forced to strike because after a three year pay freeze they offered a one per cent increase, which left many working people claiming benefits.

One member of the Public and Commercial Services Union, mum of two, Rachael Rigby, said: “I have to have two jobs just to get by. My first job is at the tax credit office in Preston which full time then at night I have another job working in mental health. It is difficult with the kids, but I have to do it.

“My husband is with Royal Mail but things are very difficult after not having had a pay rise in five years. We just exist.”

Ian McGill from The Fire Brigades Union described the turnout at the rally as “great” but told the crowd that fire-fighters were very worried about cuts to the service, which, he said, will see crews working an 84 hour week.

He said the FBU had been “left with no alternative” but to strike after a two year battle over changes to pay and conditions, adding: “Does anybody here in their hour of need want 60 year olds turning up on a fire engine? Because that is what is going to happen.”

Although not involved in the day of action, Michael Krell from the University and College Union said Preston members had given up their lunch break to support the strikers.

Simon Jones, divisional secretary and national executive member of the National Union Teachers said: “Teachers deeply regret having to take strike action.

We are aware that this causes problems and disruption for parents and carers. 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.

“Teacher morale is at a low ebb. Thousands of good, experienced teachers are leaving or considering leaving their job and a teacher shortage crisis is looming.”

A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said: “There was some disruption to county council services. However, the procedures we’ve put in place mean we’re continuing to provide services to vulnerable people across the county.

“We’re aware that 129 out of 608 schools have been closed, or partly closed as a result of the industrial action.”




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