Tagged: Nicky Ramanandi

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

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