Council workers strike – is it justified?

July 16, 2008

(updated with new photo)

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Hundreds of thousands of council workers are striking over pay in the biggest bout of industrial unrest in years.

Members of Unite and Unison are protesting over deals to increase their pay by 2.45 per cent, which is below the rate of inflation and which they say means an effective pay cut.

How are you affected by the strike? Is the council workers’ action justified?


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I’m one of those apparently well paid workers on strike. No we do not get paid enough. How many people do you know who will work in an environment where they risk getting beat up every day (I spent every term for 2 years having this happen) for less than £9,000 a year for a 30 hour week. Yes I could leave but then I would have to pay out child care costs. I have already been there done that and my child was suffering. We do not get pay rises every year for grading only for the first 5 years and then we get the normal annual payrise, and as for my inflated pension well how many people would be happy with a pension of £2,000 a year which is what mine is predicted for after I have paid into it for 23 years.
As you have guessed I work in a school but we do a lot more than the public think, we are in an environment where we actually do as much teaching as the teacher for a 1/3 or less of the pay. We do have 13 weeks holiday!!! a year in which most of it I spend making resources for the special needs children I work with, so I probably get about the same holidays as you normal workers when I have spent weeks and lots of evening making all those.
If all the LSA’s left because of low pay the general public would then be up in arms because the children who needed the extra help wouldn’t receive it and this would have knock on effect to childs social as well as educational life. So before you say we are not justified in asking for more money think about the very important job we do and then ask yourself if you would do the same job for the same money.

Posted by Janet | Report as abusive

I am a striking Unison worker and have worked for local government for the last 5 years, prior to that I worked in the private sector for 15 years. After being made redundant from my job I started working for the council term time only, my salary is paid pro-rata so I do not get the full annual amount that you all seem to think I get. 2.45 of my salary does not even give me ten pounds more per month so I feel entitled to strike. 2.45% of nothing is nothing. I have a young child so term time means I do not have to pay out childcare fees. Yes I could go work in the private sector but if we all did that where would our councils be then.
All of you who seem to think that we are being greedy try living on my wage for a year or even a few months in London and you wouldn’t be long changing your mind. I pay into my pension scheme (a lot more than I did in my final pension scheme in the private sector) and as for perks, please list them as I am not aware of any. Most of the back offices are run down and you would run a mile from working in them.
You can be sacked from the council and they are a lot tougher on sickness taken off than any of the places I have worked in the private sector. 6 days off in a six month period and you are in a stage 1 meeting 2 more stages and you are sacked, it doesn’t matter if it is cancer or something minor the illness is not taken into account just the amount of days taken, try that in the private sector and there would be uproar.

So all of you who think we are being greedy please get your facts right, most of the strikers are getting the minimum wage and it says something when a cleaner on London Underground is paid more than our learning support assistants who help your children in schools.

Posted by Molly | Report as abusive

As a council worker, I am shocked at the anger and ill informed nonsense directed at us by many of this blog’s contributors. I am being rewarded for my hard work with a pay freeze for three years and then I’ll get a pay cut of six grand. This so called increase is below inflationa and therefore constitutes another pay cut. I am motivated to just get out of the council, as they dont reward their staff well. I did not strike today, I’m getting out because I can. Many of my colleagues are staying and are trying to offer a good service to the public, but this is how we are regarded? Sod you all. You ungratefull bastards you dont deserve good services, yeah lets sack the lot of em…..yeah.

How much (or little) do we value our public services? Let the facts speak for themselves:


Road sweeper: £14,430
Teaching assistant: £15,530
Care worker: £17,088
Sports coach: £21,411
Librarian: £22,388
Building control officer: £29,840

Source: BBC/LGA figures for England and Wales

Posted by j oldershaw | Report as abusive

But for a few contributions to this site, I must say I am disappointed at the low level of knowledge and intelligence of the contributors.

It is all emotions without intelligence. Some talk about paying tax to employ the public sector staff…Do they think the public sector staff does not pay the tax they pay or pays less tax than they pay because they are public sector staff? Do they think the public sector staff avoids or evades tax? Are they ignorant of the fact that the government contracts are implimented by the private sector that employ them. What does the tax paid by the public sector staff do in the economy, if not what their own tax do i.e constituting a part of “the sources of funding” for the system which gives government the impetus to create opportunities for businesses that employ these empty barrels?

How does the economy function? The funds in the bank that pay the Bank staff where does it come from? The contracts that sustain the private sector, where do they come from? The policies that keep the system functional, who articulates them?

To think an empty vessel contributing to the comments even dared to ridicule the ability of the public sector workers is sad…he must be as empty as his comment indicated.

Job is job and needs to be done whether in the public sector or private sector…same skills are required to perform specific jobs e.g. powering a computer in the private sector requires the same skills as powering a computer in the public sector. The difference is that better skills are recruited in the public sector…better qualified personnel are employed by the public sector hence the regulation, organisation and sanity which everyone is envious of. If you cannot stand up to your employers armed with the Labour laws, why envy those who do just that.

Having worked in both sectors before setting up my own business, I think every one that has written the nonsense I read in this forum needs a rethink. The resentment they expressed towards the public sector workers is undeserved. They can apply to the public sector if they think they are qualified enough to work in that sector…only a public sector interview will rudely awaken them to their incapabilities…already expressed in their lack of objectivity and poor analysis.

They all own the public sector workers some form of apology for their bias.

The ignorance and bias views of most of the comments against the Council Workers is not based on facts!! They mention Final Salary pension Schemes but do they know what they are talking about. Final Salary pension scheme is a pecentage of your final pay and do not forget you have to pay in for that each month like any Pension Scheme and to really benefit you need to have spent your entire working life with the Council!!

It is also mentioned that an increase in pay will cost them more money. I expect it will but any pay rise in the private or public sector affects everyone and we all pay for it. I also pay my council tax each month and face he same price increases as anyone else.
I wonder how many of the comments are made by people who can’t be bothered to work and live off the state!!!!!!!!

Posted by Fred | Report as abusive

Some of the comments puzzle me. I get extra holidays do I? The Queens birthday being one of them. Humm, would the poster like to name the LA that does offer that, because it sure as hell is not offered in mine. Extra Bank Holidays. There is 2 extra days, one after Easter and one after the August one. The NHS have these as well, can the poster start shooting the NHS down in flames as well please? Not all LA’s have the extra day, the one I live in does not and the one I work in does.

Another one claims that people do unpaid work. You know nothing about my life, how dare you criticise me. I work full time and hold down 2 unpaid jobs. One for a service charity and one for a cat charity, both require a lot of hours of what free time that I do have, but they are done, because I can work from home. How many of you do unpaid overtime at you computer of weekend, updating notes, emailing and phoning to reassure residents and speak to parents who should know where their kids are but cannot be arsed, while holding a feral kitten trying to get it socialised. Or even holding a dying one, giving it some comfort in it’s last few hours. I have dealt with phone calls and queries from the serive charity while doing unpaid overtime, so don’t lecture me on what unpaid work is.

Due to staff cutbacks my work load is that great now, that I am doing to work of two others, don’t tell me that I have it cushy.

I am currently going thru the nightmare of single status and this is the propspect of pay being frozen for three years and then a possible pay cut of substantial proportions. We face losing our house if that goes thru, can I hear howls of protest from the ignorant among you? The silence is deafing.

My spinal points are for the first two years of my service only, I have now reached the top of my spine, so all I have to look foward to is below inflation rises. Spinal points are not for ever, they are only for a limited time depending on grade.

I am fed up of hearing “I pay my council tax”. Well, I hate to shatter what ever bigoted dreams you hold, but so do I and I get no discounts, I pay the full rate.

“Sack ‘em all” Yes please and perhaps the biased and bigoted among you would like my job?

Get the facts right first and the you can criticise and yes I am looking for a job in the private sector as they seem to have it cushier, after all they have time during the working day to slag us off!

Posted by D Brogan | Report as abusive

And can I also add that I may be on strike, but I am still checking my emails on a daily basis in case one of you “Tax Payers” are having a few minor problems like bricks thru your windows and surrounded by yobs. But reading some of the bigoted and selfish views on here has made me think why the hell am I doing it. So I have stopped checking my emails, so if you critics would like to crawl out of the woodwork, send me your contact details I would be more than happy to refer some of the victims onto to you, so you can deal with them and tell them that I am greedy and selfish, oh and I will throw in a few shitty families for you to deal with as well.

In March I was given a police award for work over and above my duties. The police commended me for my work, the council would only honour my work if there was something in it for them , i.e being splashed all over the local press. I refused, becuase it was my work and no one elses that got me that award, I had no back up from my team or managers and a lot of my own time was spent tackling the problem, which was not even claimed back as flexi time. So as I am so selfish and greedy I look forward to your contact details.

Posted by D Brogan | Report as abusive

I’d just like to add a comment to what I wrote yesterday. How can the Government justify taking their mortgage payments and also buy furniture out of taxpayers money and then say they can’t afford to give people a decent rise in their wages. That doesn’t only apply to council workers either. As this is supposed to be a democratic country isn’t it time we had a vote as to whether WE can afford to keep subsidising THEM or is that asking too much of the hypocrites that we know them to be.

D Brogan, now you know what people think are you surprised? You will all be Tarred with the same brush as most of the General Public get their Info from the media, which is Private Sector!

Recent articles in the National Press argued that Employees are working extra hours for nothing and they would be correct, Yes? Congratulations on your Commendation but it would put food on the table will it?
You get nothing for being over conscientious in this day and age!

And as for Obo you need to pull your head out of your a—-!

Posted by pmh64 | Report as abusive

PMH64, I don’t think it is obo that needs to pull his head out. You criticise based on fiction with out being aware of the full facts. My commendation was based on my hard work as a local goverment employee. No, it does not put food on the table, but I can walk away at the end of the day knowing that I have given 110%.

As a LG employee I and others like me have been slated in these posts for being lazy, greedy and selfish. Now you are telling me that I get nothing for being conscientious. Make up your mind. What do you do for a living, seeing as you think you views are so justified?

It was interesting to note that my anti spam word was LIFE and I think you need to get one!

Posted by D Brogan | Report as abusive

Looks as though Astrid stirred the pot with this one!!
The problem for local government workers is that they are inextricably linked in the minds of private sector workers to the Labour government. Labour squanders billions of pounds of taxpeyers’ hard-earned money on buying votes from minority groups and packing the public payroll with people that it hopes will vote Labour. It is seen as a byword for corruption and waste and unfortunately anyone associated with government at whatever level is tarred with the same brush. It’s tough on the genuine hard workers in public services, but they have to live with it.

Posted by Andrew | Report as abusive

Trying to enlighten PHM64 appears to be a waste of time. His level of ignorance is too high. He relies on the media and lacks the capacity to see through what is presented! If you go through all he has written, you just know how empty he is.

like Terry said, “he who knows not and knows not that he knows not is a ….” I do not think I will want to waste any of my time on him. I recommend he goes for elementary course in Economics.

My sympathy go to the serious minded council workers short changed in a time like this. For those who say sack them all, I say go apply for the jobs and see if you have the right attitude to support the system as they do. Not only that, if you are mentally and physically fit for the job.

If it is what would put food on your table you think of, you don’t need to look further to see the reason for Bank failures and collapse of the private firms and why the insolvency rate is high. The mentality of the likes of PMH64 speak volumes for the sector.

Apologies to the serious minds in the sector. I doubt if he is in the sector. He strikes me as a dependant of some sort.

Save your breath.

Posted by Obo | Report as abusive

It’s amazing how much rage I’m seeing from the sales managers and the finance drones and all the other people in the polyester suits with their Chelsea tractors and their people carriers telling me their corporate world is the “real” one.

These are, by and large, people who sell other people stuff they don’t need in return for money they don’t have. People who don’t personally make, or produce, or do, anything at all (except send around reports and memos and write policies and sit around in meetings). People who might sometimes move from their desk to their car.

They’re people who can’t strike for better conditions themselves because they chose to take a job where they don’t do anything the general public even notices.

And they have a sense of entitlement that comes from their useless 2/2 degree in Media Studies.

– Oh, wait, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there’s more to the private sector world than stereotypes?

Do you think it could be the same in the public sector?

Posted by Stuart | Report as abusive

There is a justification on the basis that real incomes are not keeping a pace with inflation.
However, there is no justification from a monetary view point in awarding rises. The UK is suffering from too many people in the public sector which is having to be financed by the private sector. With the credit crunch, awarding any substantial increases for council workers will be counter productive for the economy as a whole

j oldershaw and anyone else out there who fails to understand basic laws of supply and demand. Low skilled jobs attract low wages. Instead of bleating about striking spend some time developing better skills and you will then get better paid jobs. Nobody forced anyone to accept the current job that they have. And before you start crying about teachers assistants only getting £15k assistants in any industry public or private get paid peanuts because all they are is an assistant. Use your brain and you end up with your own assistant.

Most of us went to comprehensive school and the ones that didn’t do well because they made no effort deserve what they end up earning.

Those of you who do not work in the public sector need to get your facts right. The old saying “A job at the council is a job for life” no longer applies.

For those wingeing about all the “supposed” benefits council workers are on, and people in the private sector don’t get those perks, then join the public sector!

Telling people to leave if they don’t like it, why not turn this around and you leave the private if YOU don’t like it? It works both ways.

I must echo the former bloggers comments. I teach hgvtraining to council dust cart drivers. A lot of them have to pass their HGV if they want to carry on working. This is because the council has bought new hgv trucks that require the hgv licence. If they do not pass their test they get no job. There certainly is no job for life. And the pay is appaling. They do a fine job.