Belfast Telegraph

Public sector workers hold industrial action

Thousands of public sector workers in Northern Ireland are holding strike action over issues including pay and pensions.

Union members from leisure centres, libraries and other council-run premises are among those taking part.

One of the issues raised by unions is a pay offer which they claim is worth only 1%.

Unite Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly of Unite said: "Our members don't do glamorous jobs, they're the ones lifting your bins from outside your door.

"It's a job that has to be done, but they have to be paid decent wages.

Unison, Nipsa, Unite, Siptu, the GMB and the PCS are amonth the unions taking part in today's action.

Meanwhile, schools across England and Wales closed and there was disruption to council services, museums and galleries, the fire service and jobcentres as more than a million workers joined the protest at bitter disputes over pay, pensions, jobs and spending cuts.

The action was hailed as the biggest strike over pay to hit the Government since it came to power in 2010.

Home helps, lollipop men and women, refuse collectors, librarians, dinner ladies, parks attendants, council road safety officers, caretakers and cleaners walked out, alongside teachers, firefighters, civil servants and transport workers.

Picket lines were mounted outside courts, council offices, jobcentres, fire stations and Parliament in outpourings of anger over the coalition's public sector policies.

The Prime Minister and other senior politicians attacked the strikes, arguing that they are based on ballots conducted some years ago which saw low turnout from union members.

The Conservatives are drawing up plans to change employment law so that a threshold of those balloted would have to be reached before industrial action could be held.

But Unite said no Tory Cabinet member achieved a 50% voting threshold in the last general election.

General secretary Len McCluskey said: "It is utter hypocrisy for the Government to talk about mandates for trade unions when not a single member of the present Cabinet would have been elected using the same criteria.

"The fact is not a single councillor in England has won 50% of the electorate, not a single MEP has reached the 50% threshold, Boris Johnson (London mayor) scraped in with just 37% in 2008 and the Government's flagship police and crime commissioner election gained a risible 17% of the vote.

"This Government has no mandate to attack trade unions or the workers who have been forced to take industrial action today in their fight to end poverty pay."

A study by Unite showed that the Cabinet member with the lowest percentage of the vote was Welsh Secretary David Jones, who secured the support of 27% of the electorate in his seat of Clwyd West in 2010, and Culture Secretary Sajid Javid achieved a vote of 30.8% of the electorate in his constituency of Bromsgrove in 2010.

Mr McCluskey added: "Britain's anti-trade union laws are already amongst the most restrictive in Europe. Tory attempts to further curtail the rights of working people to democratically organise risks placing Cameron's Britain alongside nations like Kazakhstan, Albania and Niger, where the right for public servants to take action is forbidden."

Unison said the strike was particularly well supported in the North East, Wales and East Midlands where the union said most council offices have been closed, adding that more than 60 picket lines have closed the majority of services in Newcastle.

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