Workers rally round for big day of action
5:30am Friday 11th July 2014 in By Mike Benke, @Michael_Benke
FIREFIGHTERS, teachers and local government workers took to the streets in a day of industrial action designed to send a message to the government.
A number of unions have been involved in a range of long-running disputes over pay, working conditions and pensions.
Yesterday was part of a national day of action which saw some schools closed and some waste remain uncollected.
However, despite the large turnout for the strike, council services remained largely operational with all libraries, museums and parks open as normal.
As well as picket lines around the town, more than 100 strikers gathered at the Cenotaph at lunchtime in a large rally where speakers from the GMB, Unison, Unite and local Labour councillors explained why the action was being taken.
Chris Watts, the Branch President for Swindon and Wiltshire GMB, said: “We are here today to try and convince the government to get back around the table to have meaningful talks.
“We offered talks as late as July 4 but it was simply taken as a sign of weakness and ignored.
“The people on strike today are the lowest paid workers who do vital jobs for our community but have had no pay rise for four years, and the offer of one per cent is simply not acceptable, especially when they see the rich getting richer.”
Workers from a range of council services were involved in the strike including Unison member Roger Haworth, who provides transport for people with special needs.
He said: “I have worked for 15 years in local government and over that time there has been an erosion of our terms and it seems this government has it in for public services.
“Public service workers provide a service we all will or have needed and all we want is fair pay.
“This is a job we entered not for money but because we enjoy it.”
A number of teachers who were in the NUT also took part in the strike, leading to the closure of a number of schools.
Among them was Isambard School and one teacher, who did not want to be named, said: “This is not just about pay but about a wide range of issues.
“We are fighting to stop all the changes coming in. Children need to enjoy their education and not constantly be tested.”
Firefighters from the FBU also joined in as part of a long-running dispute over pensions, ahead of eight days of planned action beginning on Monday.
Wiltshire secretary Brent Thorley said: “It is fantastic to be here alongside our colleagues from the other unions.
“I think from now on this is how we have to act. We are much stronger working together and supporting each other.”
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