Council staff set to strike over wages dispute

Council staff are preparing to go on strike as part of an ongoing battle over wages.

A number of employees at Northumberland County Council will be staying away from work today (Thursday) as part of an ongoing row over pay and conditions.

Members of Unison are taking part in the planned national strike as they say they have no other choice in their pay argument with the local authority.

And they will also be joined on the picket line on Thursday by members of the Fire Brigades’ Union as part of their row with the government over a pensions dispute.

Unison members are angry at a three-year pay freeze and a pay cut last year, and a one per cent pay offer – which they say effectively means another pay cut.

Officials say the strike will affect government and school workers across the county, leading to the cancellation of meetings at County Hall and other issues at council locations in Northumberland.

They say the cost of living increases of 2.5 per cent and the effects of a pay freeze have meant wages have fallen by 20 per cent since 2010.

Ian Fleming, Unison’s joint branch secretary at the Northumberland County Branch, said: “It’s with a heavy heart that we’re taking this action in concert with other unions and workers across the country but we feel we’ve no choice.

“Our wages are falling, prices are going up and we feel local government is paying for the criminal mistakes of the banking industry.

“Local government workers keep services going day in day out, despite savage government cuts and we look after the elderly, the vulnerable – those who need it most.

“Almost half a million of our jobs have gone nationally. Those of us left are doing far more for far less.

“We want to send a clear message to the government that our members deserve much better.”

The Fire Brigades Union will take place from 10am to 7pm on Thursday and is the 15th to take place in the dispute over the reform of firefighter pension schemes.

Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) say they have robust plans in place to provide a service during this latest strike – but it will not be business as usual.

The strike will coincide with industrial action by a number of other organisations, including public sector and teaching unions, and the fire service is reminding people to take extra care.

Alex Bennett, chief fire officer for Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service, said: “As this latest strike will coincide with action by a number of other unions, we’re asking people to be extra vigilant on Thursday.

“Some schools could be closed, meaning more youngsters at home throughout the day, so it’s vitally important people to take steps to protect themselves and their loved ones by taking some basic fire prevention steps such as ensuring they have working smoke alarms fitted in their homes.

“As with previous fire strikes we have robust plans in place to provide a fire and rescue response during industrial action and are again putting these plans in place. It’s important to stress it will not be business as usual however.

“We have also contacted businesses and other premises to assist them in further minimising the risk from fire and other emergencies.”

For more details on fire safety, and precautions homes and businesses can take, go to