Tagged: FBU

Hundreds join FBU Newcastle rally in protest against changes to pensions and retirement age

Hundreds of firefighters gathered in Newcastle for a rally against changes to their pension and retirement ages.

The protest at the Monument today formed part of a national 24 hour stoppage in the long running dispute over Government proposals the Fire Brigade Union described as “unworkable”.

Officials say that under the government’s plan, firefighters will have to work until they are 60 instead of 55, pay more into their pensions and get less in retirement.

The latest industrial action in the four year dispute followed claims by the FBU that fire minister Penny Mordaunt had mislead parliament over the matter.

It says in a parliamentary debate last December she gave a guarantee that any firefighter aged 55 or over who failed a fitness test through no fault of their own should get another role or a full, unreduced pension.

The union said fire authorities across the country had failed to back up the minister’s “guarantee”.

However a Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said:

“We have been clear that firefighters get an unreduced pension or a job and have changed the national framework through a statutory instrument to do so.

“If fire authorities do not produce processes which yield this, the Secretary of State has said he will intervene.”

Fire Brigades Union Rally at Monument in Newcastle
Fire Brigades Union Rally at Monument in Newcastle

In Newcastle, Pete Wilcox, regional secretary for the FBU in the North East, said:

“We don’t want to be taking action because we’re aware of the consequences as we deal with them day-in and day-out.

“But we have been misled. The government talked of giving guarantees to those who fail a fitness test through no fault of their own to get an unreduced pension. Then it spoke of setting up an appeals process on it. Why do you need an appeals process when there’s supposed to be a guarantee?”

He said improvements to pension arrangements had been made in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland which meant no strike action was taking place there.

 

Mr Wilcox added: “We hope the Government will be back around the table and start negotiating again.”

As well as the firefighters and their families who attended the Newcastle rally, representatives of other unions including Beth Farhat, Northern regional TUC secretary, turned up to give their support.

The strike began at 7am on Wednesday and saw pickets at fire stations across the North East.

Meanwhile a number of North East FBU members joined thousands of colleagues in London for a lunchtime rally in Westminster addressed by MPs and union officials.

Firefighters later lobbied MPs for support in their campaign against changes to pensions and retirement age.

The Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman added:

“Strike action is unnecessary and appears to be over a point which is a vast improvement on the 2006 scheme which required firefighters to work to 60 with no protection.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 25 Feb 2015

All Fired Up

Sunderland Echoes

Central Sunderland Fire Station is under  threat of closure after the Tyne and Wear Fire Authority voted to close it along with two other stations in the North East. Obviously this decision has been incredibly unpopular resulting in well supported campaigns and petitions to stop the closures.

Today about two hundred people marched from the Fire Station to a rally in Sunderland town centre to protest the closure.

The speakers included the local Labour MP and leader of the Labour Council yet it was Sunderland Labour Councillors on the Tyne and Wear Fire Authority who voted through the closures! This was pointed out by a local Green Party campaigner which resulted in some incredibly patronising  comments from the Council Leader.

Apparently, when Labour councillors are doing Fire Authority business they cease to be Labour Councillors and therefore it wasn’t Labour councillors who voted through the decision to close the Fire…

View original post 105 more words

North East Labour MPs back firefighters in pensions dispute

MPs have spoken out to back firefighters, following a four-day strike over pensions.

Labour MPs from the North East urged Ministers to negotiate with firefighters.

And Ronnie Campbell, Labour MP for Blyth Valley, hit out at plans to make firefighters work until they are 60 before they can receive their pension.

Currently, firefighters can retire at 55 but plans to make them work another five years are one of the contentious issues that have led to the strike.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Campbell said:

“I worked down the coal mine for 29 years, and I watched old men of 60 struggling at the coal face. What must it be like for firemen of 60 trying to save lives from fire and flood?”

He was answered by local government minister Penny Mordaunt, who said:

We need older workers to stay in the fire service because they have great expertise. By offering protections on pensions and jobs for older workers and good practice for fire authorities to follow, we will ensure that in future they have the protections that Labour did not introduce.”

> Sounds like “we need to keep on older workers because we can’t be arsed to train younger ones.” ?

The last Labour government raised the retirement age to 60 for people becoming firefighters after April 2006. The Government’s plans would increase the retirement age for every serving firefighter, including those who expected to retire at 55.

Other changes include changing the way pensions are calculated, which effectively means people will receive less, and increasing contributions.

Fire Brigades Union members began a four-day strike at the start of the end of October .

North West Durham MP Pat Glass asked:

“We have just come through the longest firefighters’ strike in 38 years. When will the Government stop their politically motivated and disingenuous behaviour in this dispute and genuinely sit down with the Fire Brigades Union to settle this, as the Governments of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are doing?”

Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell asked the Minister:

“Why does not she treat them with the respect that they deserve?”

And Stockton South MP Alex Cunningham highlighted a letter from Mrs Mordaunt to a Labour MP in which she said:

“I am conscious that we will only have the ideas for the service to meet future challenges and aspirations if firefighters are engaged and feel an ownership for the service. Trust and good morale are key to this.”

He asked her:

“How does refusing to change a single word of the regulation improve morale, and how does refusing to negotiate improve trust?”

The Minister insisted that firefighters received “one of the best schemes in the public sector”.

She said:

“There has been extensive debate and consultation on these matters. I have dealt with any outstanding issues in the past few months, including those of the transition of armed forces pension schemes into the firefighters’ pension scheme and fitness protections.

“The regulations have now been laid, and it is evident from the questions coming from the Opposition that they do not understand the scheme. It is an excellent scheme, and to say otherwise would be to do firefighters a disservice.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  12 Nov 2014

‘Dangerous’ fire cuts putting North East lives at risk – and the axe is to wield again

Hundreds of frontline firefighters have been axed across the North as part of “dangerous” cuts – with another round of job losses on the way.

An  investigation shows how more than 300 full-time firefighter roles have been cut in the North in the last four years.

And with brigades admitting there are hundreds more jobs still to go thanks to cuts in Government funding, campaigners claim “a tragedy is waiting to happen”.

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service has been the biggest casualty, with the axe taking out 18.4% of staff, some 173 workers – 143 of them frontline firefighters.

Cleveland has lost 17.5% of its workforce – 110 workers including 100 full-time or ‘on-call’ firefighters, and one station has closed.

Some 56 frontline firefighters have been axed in Northumberland, but 12 ‘on-call’ roles have been created. Overall, the brigade is 49 people (11.4%) – and two stations – down.

Meanwhile, Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service has lost 49 whole-time firefighters but has hired more ‘on-call’ and back office staff. It means the authority is 24 bodies lighter (4.1%) than it was in 2010.

The North East as a whole has lost 333 frontline firefighters – with that figure likely to double over the coming years.

Meanwhile Cumbria lost 16.5% of staff, including 30 full-time firefighters, while North Yorkshire is down 5% of staff, and 27 frontline firefighters.

Peter Wilcox, regional secretary at the Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU), said cutbacks put both firefighters and the public “at greater risk” with fewer resources to respond to potentially life-threatening emergencies.

He said: “Firefighters witnessed a decade of 2-3% year-on-year reductions to fire service funding leading up to the coalition Government taking office in 2010.

“Since this time the level of cuts have been unprecedented, with frontline services being hit by losses of 20% on average and further cuts of 7.5% planned by central Government for 2015-16.

“In real terms, we have seen fewer fire engines available to respond to emergency incidents.

“This level of cuts is not sustainable and places the public and firefighters at greater risk from fires and other emergency incidents.

“Despite David Cameron’s pledge not to cut frontline services prior to his party’s election in 2010, this is one pledge too far and has not been honoured.

“Firefighters across the North are saying enough is enough. Members of the public anticipate receiving the right level of protection and expect the appropriate response in their hour of need.”

As well as fighting domestic fires, brigades here in the North cover large industrial areas where blazes can fast accelerate.

Julie Elliott, MP for Sunderland Central, said the cuts should be stopped before it’s too late. She said: “The massive cuts this Tory-led Government has inflicted on fire services are not only unacceptable, they are dangerous.

“With more cuts due, I genuinely believe that a tragedy is waiting to happen. This Government needs to think again and fund our fire services fairly.”

The figures are set to make even grimmer reading by 2018, with more drastic cuts planned – but local fire brigades reassured residents they will be protected.

Cleveland Fire Brigade  said it needs to save a further £6m in the next four years, meaning 135 frontline firefighters will be replaced by 72 ‘on-call’ staff.

Chief fire officer Ian Hayton said: “Cleveland has been at the wrong end of the Government austerity cuts and tops the league table of authorities with the highest funding reduction at more than 13%. We believe these reductions are disproportionate.”

Six fire engines, 131 more staff and three stations will be lost as part of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service’s three-year plan of cuts.

The authority’s chief fire officer Tom Capeling, announcing the plan in January, said the move is expected to save £5m. He said: “There is no doubt that this continues to be a challenging time for the service.”

In Durham and Darlington, the brigade is looking to save £3.6m by 2018, but bosses said firefighters lost in the last round of cuts weren’t made redundant.

Chief executive Susan Johnson said: “The small reduction in the number of whole-time firefighters has been through natural wastage – planned retirements and leavers.”

Northumberland Fire and Rescue also said further savings may be needed in the next three years.

However residents can be reassured that in the future we will continue to work with partners to provide high quality prevention and protection activity along with a well-equipped and highly trained workforce,” said assistant chief fire officer Steve Richards said.

Cuts over the last four years mean the North East has lost 13.8% of its workforce, higher than the national average of 11.2% and the third worst region in England.

Nationally, 5,124 firefighters have been lost, forcing an FBU Ring of Fire protest tour of England, including stop-offs at Redcar and Sunderland.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the union, said: “The cuts, in our view, mean the service firefighters are able to provide is not as good as it could be or as good as it was.

“It means, for example, people are waiting longer after they dial 999 for firefighters to arrive. The ability to do the job safely is being undermined and this puts lives at risk.”

Source –  Sunday Sun, 28 Sept 2014

County Durham and Darlington Fire Service looking to cut staff and review services to save £3.6m

A North-East fire service is proposing to cut staff and review services to fill a £3.6m funding gap.

Spennymoor Fire Station could be operated by part-time firefighters under the plans being considered by County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Authority.

The number of full-time staff in Darlington could also be reduced, while police and ambulance crews could share some County Durham fire stations.

Unveiling the authority’s strategic plan for 2015/16 to 2017/18, Susan Johnson, chief executive of County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, stressed that there were no plans to close fire stations or reduce the number of appliances.

She added:
“The five proposals that we are consulting on include working with partner organisations and using our current resources in different ways to make £3.6m of savings within the service during the next three years to meet the reductions in the government funding that we receive.

“We have begun this consultation early to provide an extended period of time to speak to and canvass the opinion of everyone affected, from MPs to people living and working in our area.”

The service has already had to find £3.5m of savings over the last three years.

 The five proposals include:

– Sharing Barnard Castle Fire Station with police, ambulance and mountain rescue staff; Stanhope and Crook with the police and Sedgefield with the ambulance service.

– Training firefighters to deal with medical emergencies, including heart attacks, bleeding, breathing difficulties, trauma and strokes.

– Reviewing the staffing of the aerial ladder platform appliance in Darlington, including the possible use of retained staff.

– Reviewing the number of emergency response officers – who respond in cars to take charge of major incidents – employed by the service.

– Changing the staffing at Spennymoor Fire Station for the first responding appliance to retained only, rather than full-time during the day and retained at night and over weekends.

Tony Curry, Durham secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said the union was still digesting the consultation document and would respond to the authority formally in due course.

However, he added:
“The FBU always has grave concerns about reductions in the number of firefighters and the cover they provide.”

To view the three-year strategic plan document , visit http://www.ddfire.gov.uk/service-plans where there is a link to the consultation questions at http://www.smartsurvey.co.uk//three_year_strategic_plan15-16_17-18

For a hard copy of the document, call 0845-3058383. The consultation will run until December 1.

Source –  Northern Echo,  01 Sept 2014

Fire fighters to live at station as job losses and funding cuts bite

Plans have been drawn up to build a £1million accommodation block for firefighters on 24 hour shifts as part of cost-saving measures.

Rainton Bridge Fire Station is to lose 16 firefighters as Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service looks to save £8million in the face of Government cuts.

A total of 131 posts will go as the service trims £5million from its frontline budget.

A new 24-hour shift pattern has been introduced at Rainton Bridge with crews staying in a purpose-built block while on call.

Officers who did not sign up to the new shift pattern have moved to other stations, but will not be replaced when they leave.

The shift pattern is expected to save £500,000 a year and the Houghton station was chosen because it has the lowest number of call outs.

Firefighters were called out 1,447 times in the last three years compared to 4,055 for Sunderland Central, 2,415 for North Moor, 2,033 for Fulwell and 2,492 for Washington.

But union bosses slammed it as “a return to Victorian work practices” and claimed it will not provide the same standard of service.

The Fire Brigade’s Union (FBU) also said it would have long-term impact on finances, as firefighters on the new shift earn 23 per cent more, which means their pension contributions must also rise.

Dave Turner, brigade secretary for the FBU, said: “We rigorously oppose this duty system and believe it is a return to Victorian working practices because they are expected to be on duty for 90 hours a week.

“We don’t believe that is appropriate in this day and age and it also puts an added pressure on our pension scheme.”

The 12 officers who have agreed to the new approach will work with bosses to decide what periods of time they will live on base for, but will still complete 182 shifts during the year.

The block, which is expected to be completed by spring, has been designed so family members can visit.

> Wow ! Just like prison…

A similar scheme is in operation in Birtley and County Durham Fire and Rescue Service run one in Seaham.

A planning application for the Mercantile Road station has been submitted by Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service Authority to Sunderland City Council, and if the £1.048million two-storey extension is approved, it is expected to save £500,000 a year through the new shift pattern.

The building project is being funded by Government cash, with the service to make up any shortfall from reserves.

Assistant fire chief officer Chris Lowther said: “From the public’s point of view, they will still get what they got yesterday, which is a fire appliance which is available 24 hours a day and the same number of people will attend at the same time.

“What the fire authority get from it going through is a significant budget reduction.”

The FBU believe the approach is a “return to Victorian working practises” and dispute fire chiefs’ claims the same standard of service will be provided.

Source – Sunderland Echo, 31 July 2014

North East public sector strike news – 2

SUNDERLAND –

Puplic services ground to a halt across Wearside yesterday as workers walked out in support of the strike. Schools, libraries, leisure centres, museums and other public buildings were shut.

Pickets were in place outside Sunderland Civic Centre.

John Kelly, secretary of Unite’s Sunderland City Council Branch, said: “Unite is proud to be taking part in strike action alongside our fellow trade unions.

“This is a fight for better public services, and for fair pay for those who work hard to deliver those services.

“Council workers have been targeted to bear the brunt of the austerity measures that have been imposed by millionaire cabinet ministers since 2010. Unite fully understand that Labour-run councils like Sunderland City Council are the scapegoats when implementing this Coalition Government’s austerity measures.

“Local government workers and the communities they deliver services to believe that local government workers should have fair pay, not poverty pay.”

Source – Sunderland Echo, 11 July 2014

SOUTH TYNESIDE –

There were pickets outside South Shields Town Hall, the town’s Middlefields refuse depot and at the JobCentre in Chapter Row, and more than half of schools in the borough closed for the day.

All the borough’s libraries were also shut, and all council refuse collections were cancelled, and the crematorium on John Reid Road, South Shields, closed for the day.

Despite the widespread disruption, Merv Butler, branch secretary of Unison South Tyneside, believes the public remain generally supportive of the action – and the reasons behind it.

Horn-beeping motorists expressed support for the dozen or so trade unionists gathered outside the town’s hall’s Beach Road entrance yesterday and, also on hand to show his support was Labour councillor Ernest Gibson, Mayor of South Tyneside last year.

There were pickets from the National Union of Teachers (NUT) at Harton Technology College in South Shields.

The school was closed to pupils, although members of other teaching unions and non-union staff did go into work.

COUNTY DURHAM –

Striking workers picketed outside council offices, job centres, tax offices and courts across County Durham and North Yorkshire.

Workers from government agencies including the Student Loans Company in Darlington, the Passport Office in Durham City and the HM Revenue & Customs offices in Thornaby took part in the industrial action.

In County Durham, more than 130 schools closed for the day, although only a handful of Darlington’s schools shut.

Twenty North Yorkshire schools closed and a further 50 suffered disruption.

On Teesside about 35 schools in Stockton were closed or partially-closed.

A survey commission by Unite on the eve of the strike found that 50 per cent of people in the North of England agreed that the local government workers’ call for an £1 per-hour pay rise was justified.

The poll confirms that people across the North support workers who are fighting to end poverty pay in our local councils,” said Mike Routledge, Unite local government officer for the North-East.

Source – Northern Echo, 10 July 2014

HARTLEPOOL –

Picket lines could be seen around the town with the most prominent outside of the Civic Centre, in Victoria Road, Hartlepool.

Other’s took place outside Hartlepool Borough Council-run buildings in Church Street, and also in Wesley Square, outside the Jobcentre.

Councillor Stephen Thomas, Labour representative for the De Bruce ward, was also on the picket line to offer his support.

Coun Thomas, who works for Health Watch Hartlepool but took the day off to take part in the action, said: “I’m here to basically show my support to the strikers because I think that the way the Government is treating government sector workers is absolutely appalling.

“The one per cent pay rise they’ve had in the last four years equates to a 14 per cent cut in real terms.”

Teachers were also included in the strike with a number of Hartlepool schools closed for the day.

The Fire Brigade Union (FBU) also joined forces in the strike action, with crews from Cleveland Fire Brigade’s Stranton Fire Station forming a protest.

Brian Gibson, the FBU chairman for Cleveland, said: “The action we took part in is particularly important because all the unions have got together to show our strength of feeling at getting one per cent pay rises. The FBU’s argument is also with the Government over pensions.”

He added: “We’ve had great public support, all we’ve had is support.

“We’re so pleased.”

Source – Hartlepool Mail, 11 July 2014

MIDDLESBROUGH –

Outside Middlesbrough Town Hall this morning, many office workers arriving for work crossed the picket lines.

Dawn Nicholson, Unison Area Organiser said: “It’s going well.

“Some people are crossing the picket lines but a lot of them are employed by Mouchel.

“Mouchel workers haven’t been balloted and can’t strike but many have signed our petition.”

However as one woman made her way into work she answered calls for her to strike saying: “People are still need to make a living.

GMB union, shop steward, Brian Foulger, said: “We’re quite surprised by how many people, even management, have gone out on strike.

“Since 2010, local government have been putting money away for a rainy day. Well, it’s pouring down.”

Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 10 July 2014

North East public sector strike news – 1

Thousands of public sector workers went on strike in a bitter disagreement over pay and pensions, as part of the biggest day of industrial action seen in the country for years.

More than 400 schools in the region were fully or partially closed as teachers downed tools during the walk out.

Joining them were home helps, lollipop men and women, refuse collectors, librarians, dinner ladies, parks attendants, council road safety officers, caretakers and cleaners, as well as firefighters, civil servants and transport workers.

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

Nationally, around 1m workers took part in the 24-hour strike, which unions claimed was one of the biggest in the country in years.

The Cabinet Office blamed union leaders for “irresponsible” strikes.

A spokesman claimed most public sector workers had reported for work and “nearly all key public services were being delivered as usual”.

The biggest issue in dispute is pay, after ministers froze public sector salaries in 2010 and introduced a 1% cap on pay rises in 2012 which remains in place.

Thousands joined a march through Newcastle City Centre campaigning against cuts, changes to pensions, pay and work conditions.

Chants of “they say cut back, we say fight back” could be heard as the crowd of teachers, firefighters, health workers, council staff and civil servants led the procession from outside City Pool, near the Civic Centre, as part of the one-day walk-out with teachers also highlighting concerns over children’s education and firefighters raising their fears that cuts risk lives.

Among those lending their support was Blaydon MP Dave Anderson who said: “It’s a really good turn-out. I’m impressed and spirits are really high.

These people do a tremendous job day in day out and we are not looking after them properly. It’s time we did.

“It’s time we said enough is enough. They are at the end of their tether and a cry for help.”

The procession of workers, carrying banners and placards and flanked by mounted police, headed towards Northumberland Street then through the throng of shoppers onto New Bridge Street for speeches on the blue carpet area outside Laing Art Gallery.

Most were delighted at the turnout.

Shirley Ford, 50, an administrative assistant at Marine Park Primary School in South Shields, said: “I was also on the picket line in South Shields this morning and when you’re in a small school it’s hard to sense how everyone else is feeling so this is great to see – and the sun has come out!”

Andy Nobel, executive member for the FBU in North East which is the middle of its own industrial action following the loss of 300 firefighter posts and station closures in the wake of the Government’s austerity measures, said: “Public support during our whole dispute has been fantastic.

“When they’ve heard our arguments there hasn’t been a great deal, if any, adverse public reaction.”

A further eight days of action is expected to be announced.

One firefighter, who did not want to be named, said the chief concern of colleagues was pensions not pay.

Meanwhile, teacher Tony Dowling, 57, the members’ secretary for Gateshead NUT, said: “The main reason is the pension and pay but I’m really on strike because I care about the education of the children.

“Michael Grove is making the jobs of teachers impossible and ruining children’s education.”

Cheers greeted the speakers at the rally who included Nicky Ramanandi, Unison’s deputy regional convenor for public services alliance, who called the national turn-out “the second biggest turn of action since the end of the Second World War”.

Gordon Thompson, a councillor from Newsham ward in Blyth Valley, known for his refusal to pay his Poll Tax, was among the supporters at the rally and stressed the importance of making a stand.

And a familiar face lending his support was local actor Joe Caffrey, accompanying his father, retired Unison member Joe Caffrey senior, who was standing up for service providers whose pensions are taking a hit.

The 69-year-old from Whitley Bay said: “I’ve got a pension but I’m here for the people still working, particularly the young people.

Picket lines were also formed outside some of the region’s schools and council offices, including Newcastle’s Civic Centre and the Department for Work and Pensions, in Longbenton.

Newcastle’s Grainger Market was closed to the public for the first time in two years because of the industrial action.

Reports suggest there was around 5,000 people at today’s march.

Source –  Newcastle Journal,  10 July 2014

Strike set to hit Sunderland

Sunderland could grind to a halt tomorrow as thousands of local government workers go on strike.

Members of unions including Public and Commercial Services (PCS), Unison, GMB, National Union of Teachers (NUT), Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and Unite will walk out nationally.

Although it is not clear how many employees will take part, Sunderland City Council has warned the action was likely to affect most of its services, with many council buildings closed.

Most schools in Sunderland will shut, although some will remain open and others will partially open for some year groups. Some children’s centres will be closed.

All customer service centres will be closed along with libraries, with the exception of the City Library.

All leisure centres and wellness facilities, including Sunderland Aquatic Centre, will also be closed – though the Raich Carter Sport Centre will remain open. All museums will be closed.

Bin collections will be hit, while Beach Street household waste and recycling centre will be closed. The industrial action also means that there will be no cremations or burials on the day.

We have to make the point that this is not just about pay, but the future of the services that our members provide,” Unison’s Sunderland organiser Helen Metcalf .

One per cent is a cut in real terms of 20 per cent since the coalition government came to power, and that would see almost 90 per cent of our school and local government workers receive a further pay cut, rather than a pay award.

“The chancellor committed that everyone earning under £21,000 would receive and extra £250, but this has never been paid.”

She added: “We don’t take strike action like this lightly, but people coming out when they are already suffering, shows just how strong the feeling is, that people just can’t afford to live on this anymore.”

Chief executive Dave Smith said: “This is a national dispute affecting public services across the country. And although it’s not entirely clear at this stage how many employees will take part in the industrial action, we are anticipating widespread disruption to council services and we have planned ahead on that basis.

“We will be doing everything we can to protect the most vulnerable members of the community and ensure that services to them are maintained. We ask members of the public to bear with us during this time and we apologise for any disturbance to normal services resulting from this national dispute.”

Durham County Council says that although it has taken steps to minimise the impact on emergency and essential services, most council buildings will be closed to the public.

An up-to-date list is available at http://www.durham.gov.uk/schoolclosures. There will be no waste collections, but household waste recycling centres will open as normal.

Firefighters will walk out – between 10am and 7pm – as part of the long-running dispute between the FBU and government over pensions, and people are urged to take extra care to protect themselves from the risks of fire.

Source –  Sunderland Echo,  09 July 2014

Thousands of North East workers gear up for a massive day of action

Thousands of North East workers are gearing up for one of the biggest days of industrial action in this country in years.

Teachers, firefighters, health workers, council staff and civil servants will  join up with around 1.5 million colleagues nationwide in a 24-hour walk-out in a protest over pay, pensions and work conditions.

Bin collections will be suspended, council buildings including libraries will be closed and most controversially it will result in the sweeping closure of hundreds of schools across the region.

Mike McDonald, Regional Secretary of the NUT which has 20,000 members in the region, said: “Teachers are extremely reluctant to strike because of the impact on children’s education.

“However they feel that this current Government’s attacks on education will cause far more damage.

“Morale in the profession is at rock bottom, teachers are wasting hours on pointless paperwork and scores are quitting in their first years because of unmanageable workload, uncertain pay and worsening pensions.

“Children deserve teachers who are motivated, enthused and valued. Education Secretary Michael Gove would do well to engage properly with the profession and address teachers’ concerns to end this dispute.

“For teachers, performance-related pay, working until 68 for a full pension and heavy workload for 60 hours a week is unsustainable.”

The Fire Brigade Union is protesting at changes to firefighters’ pensions and a later retirement age.

Meanwhile the GMB, Unite, UNISON and the Public and Commercial Services Union are protesting over pay rates.

A pay freeze was imposed in 2010 for three years followed by a 1% increase last year and the same offer this year.

They say that represents an 18% fall in pay in real terms, back to the level of the 1990s.

Nicky Ramanandi, Unison’s Deputy Regional Convenor and a local government employee said: “The pay offer from the local government employer is derisory in the extreme.

“This year’s pay offer would see 90% of school and local government workers receive a further pay cut. The offer of a 1% pay rise if you earn £7.71 per hour or more, or if you earn below that it is slightly more to take us just above the National Minimum Wage.

“This pay offer does not keep pace with price increases and our pensions will suffer. This pay offer is nowhere near enough.”

Karen Loughlin, the union’s Regional Lead Officer on Local Government, said: “Part-time workers – mainly women and more than half the local government workforce – have been particularly hard hit, with their hourly earnings now worth the same as they were 10 years ago.

“Many low paid part-time Local Government workers need benefits and tax credits to keep their families out of poverty.

“It is deeply disturbing to hear the continuing stories of Local Government workers resorting to food banks.

“UNISON is demanding a decent pay rise in recognition of the valuable role that our members perform in delivering public services to children, young people, the elderly and vulnerable in our communities.”

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “The vast majority of dedicated public sector workers have not voted for this week’s strike action, so it is disappointing that the leadership of the unions are pushing for a strike that will achieve nothing and benefit no one. Union leaders are relying on mandates for action that lack authority – the National Union of Teachers is relying on a ballot run nearly two years ago.

“As part of our long-term economic plan, this Government has been taking tough decisions to address the budget deficit we inherited in 2010.

“One was to introduce pay restraint in the public sector, while protecting the lowest paid. Pay restraint protects public sector jobs, supports high-quality public services and helps put the UK’s finances back on track.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  08 July 2014