Hundreds of council workers, teachers, firefighters and civil servants have gone on strike – causing disruption throughout Derbyshire.
The action – part of a national one-day walkout which could be the biggest since the General Strike of 1926 – is affecting a number of services across the county (see here).
Members of six public sector unions voted to join the revolt in protest at a range of issues, including “attacks” on pay and pensions and increased workloads.
Unison – which represents local Government workers including lollipop men and women, social workers and street cleaners – will hold a rally in Chesterfield town centre from 11am.
Members say they are angry after the Government offered them a one per cent pay rise following three years of no wage increases.
Jeanette Lloyd, Unison branch secretary for Derbyshire, said: “Our members provide essential services to Derbyshire.
“After all these years we deserve a decent pay rise.
“For many local Government and school support workers, pay is back to the level of the 1990s.
“After 25 years as an employee of Derbyshire County Council, comparatively my pay is worth far less now than when I started – not what anyone would expect working for a public employer,” she added.
Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), meanwhile, have concerns about their “heavy” workloads.
Christine Blower, NUT general secretary, said: “Strike action is a last resort for teachers and we deeply regret the disruption it causes parents and pupils.
“For teachers, performance-related pay, working until 68 for a full pension and heavy workload for 60 hours a week is unsustainable.
“Teaching is one of the best jobs in the world but is being made one of the worst under education secretary Michael Gove and the Coalition Government.
“It is time they listened,” she added.
Members of the Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU) will down tools from 10am until 7pm as part of their long-running and bitter dispute with the Government.
Ministers plan to raise the retirement age for firefighters from 55 to 60 and increase their pension contributions.
But the FBU claims many firefighters will not be able to maintain fitness standards into their late 50s, forcing them to leave the service and endangering the public.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “The Government must realise that firefighters cannot accept proposals which would have such devastating consequences for their futures, their families’ futures — and the future of the fire and rescue service itself.”
Derbyshire fire brigade – which insists it will have reserve crews on call during the walkout – is urging residents to take extra care.
Gavin Tomlinson, assistant chief fire officer, said: “We will still be responding to 999 calls albeit at a reduced level.
“Once again we are asking members of the public to take extra steps to reduce the risk of a fire breaking out in their home and to take extra care when driving on the roads during times of industrial action.
“I would urge everyone to visit our website, www.derbys-fire.gov.uk, where there is a wealth of fire safety advice and information available,” he added.
The Government said it will “not budge” on its changes to pay and pensions for public sector workers – insisting they have a good deal.
Cabinet minister Francis Maude said it would be “totally irresponsible” to reverse changes which made pay and pensions “affordable and sustainable”.
Nigel Mills, Conservative MP for Amber Valley, said: “Education and the economy in both Amber Valley and Derbyshire as a whole will be damaged by these strikes. They are wrong and the Labour Party should say so. The economic mess they left behind in 2010 is the reason why this Government has had to take the difficult decisions required to get our country moving once again.”
On the Derbyshire Times’ Facebook page, readers have given their views on the contentious strike.
Sam Cooke said: “It’s a shame because my little girl’s school has now cancelled sports day to go on strike and won’t do another.”
Adele Pitchford said: “Be grateful you’ve got a job – that’s all I’ve got to say.”
Steve Barnett said: “Get the lot sacked. Everybody else in the private sector has to go to work for less money and less pension.”
Sean Barnett said: “I have a job, I work hard, haven’t had a pay rise in years and my pension contributions have quadrupled along with poorer conditions – why should I put up with it?”
Ian Clay said: “Losing a day’s pay for a decent wage is not an easy decision for anyone, especially someone with two young kids, but please appreciate that not all the jobs we do are gold-plated.”
Adam Tomlinson said: “Good on the strikers. It’s time we all unite against this hypocritical Tory filth. It’s OK for them to get a pay rise!”
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