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Strikes threat at councils

PUBLISHED: 13:58 10 June 2002 | UPDATED: 12:04 03 March 2010

THOUSANDS of workers across Suffolk could bring basic services to a halt next month if they vote for industrial action.

But today there was a pledge that vulnerable people would not be targeted in any industrial action.

THOUSANDS of workers across Suffolk could bring basic services to a halt next month if they vote for industrial action.

But today there was a pledge that vulnerable people would not be targeted in any industrial action.

More than a million council workers who are members of UNISON were voting today on whether to take strike action over pay.

Union leaders have already set a date of July 17 for the first 24-hour walkout if the workers back industrial action.

Local authority employees in England, Wales and Northern Ireland ranging from social workers to school caretakers have already rejected the employers' "final" offer of 3%.

Unions are seeking a rise of six per cent or £1,750 a year, whichever is greater.

The ballot will end on July 5 and if the strike goes ahead it will be the first national action in local government since the Winter of Discontent in 1979.

Netta Murray, Suffolk County Council UNISON secretary, said the result of the ballot should be known shortly after it closes.

"But we are giving a pledge that vulnerable people – the elderly, disabled, and young children – will not be targeted in any action," she said.

UNISON represents workers across most sections of council work, from grave diggers and refuse collection staff to administrative officers.

District and borough councils as well as County Hall would be affected by any industrial action.

UNISON has recommended its members to back the call for industrial action but Mrs Murray said no further action beyond July 17 would be decided until the result of the ballot was known.

Suffolk County Council executive committee member Ray Nowak said: "A pay offer of 3% by the national employers has been rejected by UNISON and we have been notified of their intention to ballot their members over possible strike action.

"We await the results of this and if it results in strike action we will consider the implications for service delivery and the need to make contingency plans.

"We hope that the situation can be resolved without the need for strike action."

Ipswich council will also be hit if UNISON members vote in favour of action.

"It's a bit frustrating because this is a national dispute, it isn't something we have the power to solve individually," said council leader Peter Gardiner.

"We have very good relations with UNISON members, but this matter is really out of our hands," he said.

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