Local government and school support workers in Somerset to strike over pay

Carers, social workers, refuse collectors, street cleaners and teaching assistants will be among thousands of local council and school support workers in Somerset set to strike on the 10th July as part of a nationwide action over pay.

Events will be taking place across the county.  In Taunton UNISON members will be holding a street stall in the High Street to raise food donations for Taunton foodbank.  Members in Shepton Mallet will also be holding a street stall in order to speak directly with the public about the reasons for the strike.

Kris Ross-Osborne, Assistant Branch Secretary to UNISON Somerset County Branch, said:

“While we will be on strike on the 10th July our members will be showing their commitment to our communities in Somerset.  That we believe that public services are important and worth fighting for.  We’re clear that if we want to preserve them in the future then the staff that provide them deserve fair pay for the work they do.  Anything less will inevitably lead to poorer services in time as staff struggle to make ends meet and keep a roof over their heads.  With price rises outstripping wages for the past six years, and with interest rate rise predicted to rise sharply in the next two years, something has to change.”

While local government workers have long been amongst the lowest paid in the public sector the government has had their pay and conditions squarely in its sights since 2010. A pay freeze in 2010, 2011 and 2012 and well below inflation rises in 2013 and 2014 has sent the pay packets of local government and school workers plummeting back to the level of the 1990s.

Many council workers in Somerset have been left struggling just to get by, with some relying on foodbanks and the false economy of in-work benefits to make ends meet.  This year’s offer would result in a cumulative real-term cut of almost 20% since 2008 for more than one million local government and school workers.

UNISON is urging the employers to get back to the negotiating table with an offer that recognises the invaluable contribution members make to their local communities.

Belinda Burton, Branch Secretary for UNISON Somerset County Branch said:

“Council workers have kept on going in the face of four years of relentless government cuts to keep local services in Somerset running. These are people who care deeply about serving the public. They look after our elderly and our vulnerable, keep our streets clean and educate our children. They deserve better treatment than they have had at the hands of this government.

“Taking strike action is always a hard decision for our members but it is the only way left to them to  send a clear message to the government that they have had enough. Since this government has been in power UNISON local government members have not gone on strike over pay, deciding instead to accept the pay offer, but there inevitably reaches a point when this is no longer sustainable.  The government needs to listen us now and change its mind.

“It’s not just bad for workers affected by low wages, it’s bad for local economies like Somerset to have so many families struggling to get by. A better pay offer would be of benefit to the wider economy and better for the government’s finances as the tax take increases and fewer families are reliant on in-work benefits, such as housing benefit and family tax credits.

“The employers must get back into talks immediately to avoid a damaging dispute.” 

ENDS

For press enquries please contact: Belinda Burton, Branch Secretary by e-mailing: unisonoffice@somerset.gov.uk or telephone: 01823 357565

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UNISON Office, A3 County Hall, Taunton, Somerset TA1 4DY. 01823 355568