Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Government braced for autumn of discontent

The Government is facing a period of considerable discontent by tens of thousands of workers in worsening disputes over jobs, pay and services.

Disputes in the Royal Mail and the fire service are set to escalate in the coming weeks, while councils are also being hit by industrial action.

A series of local disputes over job cuts in the fire service will see almost 8,000 firefighters in England, almost one in five, taking some form of industrial action by Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Communication Workers Union (CWU) is set to ballot 130,000 postal staff for a national strike over pay, jobs and service next month, with the result due to be released a few days before Labour's national conference in Brighton.

Unions blamed managers in the Royal Mail and fire service for trying to force through cuts and other changes without agreement.

Action short of a strike, including an overtime ban, is already in place in South Yorkshire, Humberside and London with Essex set to follow on Wednesday.

The Fire Brigades Union said that between 1997 and 2007 there had been a cut in frontline personnel in the UK, while headquarters staff had risen by 40%.

The union claimed that firefighters in South Yorkshire and Lincolnshire had been threatened with the sack if they did not sign new contracts by the New Year which involved working 12-hour day shifts.

Officials also warned of other cuts in Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Lancashire and Greater Manchester and the union said it expected the “cuts crisis” to spread to other fire authorities.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “Targeting frontline fire services for cuts is Treasury endorsed and Audit Commission driven. It explodes the Government myth that frontline services, especially 999 services, are somehow being protected from cuts.”

Fresh strikes will be launched this week by postal workers in the latest in a series of walkouts which have hit deliveries.

The CWU said up to 20,000 postal workers from across the UK are set for another week of strikes as the deadlock between the CWU and Royal Mail over cuts continues.

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