Croydon public sector workers join nationwide walkout over pay

Croydon Guardian: Unions have joined together for the walkout Unions have joined together for the walkout

Public sector workers from across Croydon have joined with more than a million others nationwide on strike today in the biggest walkout for decades.

Council staff, leisure centre employees, teachers, rubbish collectors and firefighters are manning picket lines today with some also taking part in a march in central London.

Members of GMB, Unite and Unison joined together outside the council offices, Bernard Weatherill House, and staged a rally in nearby Queen’s Gardens.

Croydon’s Unison branch secretary Laurie Pocock said his members are striking because they are unhappy with the pay rise they have been offered.

He said: “We have had a one per cent pay offer for this year and this follows several years of a pay freeze.

“And we have been told that the pay will be capped through to 2017 by the government and enough is enough.

“Local government workers cannot fund the austerity measures.

“We are asking that the Local Government Association comes back to the negotiating table and makes us a better offer.”

The btanch secretary of Unite, Kevin Simmons, said: “Our members are very amgry at the way they have been treated and the government’s response is to announce four years of pay restraints.

“They say the economy is improving but they say four years of pay restraint.

“Since 2011 my personal pay has gone down by £6,000 a year, that’s on real pay terms, and I’m not one of the lowest paid workers.

“If we carry on with these pay restraints then it will take me 18 years to get back to where we were in 2011.

“Our message to the government is to encourage the Local Government Association to negotiate.

“They are refusing to talk to us. We did not want to be here on strike but when the employer won’t talk to us, what choice do we have?”

And leisure centre worker Connor Hammond, who is employed by Fusion, said: “We are at the very low end of the pay scale and people have to feed their kids on their wages and we are asking and asking for a pay rise and everyone is just sick of it.

“Everyone has to do 10 or 20 hours a week extra just to pay the bills and it’s not a good quality of life.”

He said part of the problem at the leisure centres is multi-tiered contracts, where some people get paid more for doing the same job.

Mr Hammond added: “We all stand together but it makes people feel upset that some people are getting almost double.

“It feels unsettled.”

And GMB organiser Michelle Gordon said: “Four years without a pay rise is, in real terms, an 18 per cent pay cut.

“Our workers are struggling to pay their bills and their rent and they are here to say enough is enough.

“We need a pay rise that meets inflation so they can maintain their standard of living and we are asking for a pound an hour which would bring us up to the living wage.

“We say that a pound an hour will go some way to compensate for the losses of the last four years.

“Our members are really angry and are working harder and longer for less money.

“We are calling on the government to come back to the negotiating table and talk about a decent pay rise for the people that are really struggling.”

A Local Government Association spokesman said: "Local government staff have worked wonders while councils have been tackling the biggest funding cuts in living memory and we have no doubt that many are still at work on the day of strike action.

“The pay offer we have made would increase the pay of most employees by one per cent while the lowest paid would receive an increase of more than four per cent.

"This is the fairest possible deal for our employees given the limits of what we can afford.

“This strike will not change the pay offer we have made, but it will mean those who take part lose a day’s pay.”

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