Plans in place to cope with strikes

Parents could face disruption if teachers go on strike later this year
Parents could face disruption if teachers go on strike later this year

County organisations insist plans are in place to minimise the potential disruption caused by public sector strikes.

Teachers, firefighters and postal workers could all walk out this autumn, and there have been suggestions the industrial action could be co-ordinated, in an attempt to force the Government to take action on pay and pensions.

Firefighters voted last month to go on strike, but the chief fire officer in Northamptonshire said contingency plans were in place.

Martyn Emberson said: “This is a national dispute between the Fire Brigades Union and the Government. Although our hope is that a resolution can be reached as quickly as possible, we respect the right of staff to take part in this industrial action and have therefore been working on our contingency plans.

“This includes working in partnership with our neighbouring authorities to ensure we have the right resources in place to be able to continue to provide an emergency response in the event of strike action. This is a testing time for fire and rescue services 
across the country, but we are taking every precaution to ensure any disruption is kept to a minimum.”

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Dawn Whittaker said part-time officers would fill in if full-time firefighters chose to strike.

She added: “We have quite a large retained workforce who have indicated, during a potential strike, they would continue to work. We have a robust contingency plan that involves the use of existing staff. We would also be reducing some of the other activities we do like school visits and prevention work.”

There has been an angry reaction to Government proposals to privatise the Royal Mail, but a strike has not yet been voted for by members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU).

“Currently it is business as usual for Royal Mail,” said the organisation’s Rhys Jones, who added he was hopeful a resolution could be found.

“We are committed to the ongoing talks with the CWU to reach a new agreement and call on the CWU to focus on these rather than preparing for industrial action.”

Meanwhile, East Midlands teachers are set to walk out on October 1 in a dispute with the Government over plans to link pay to performance.

It is up to individual schools to make contingency plans in case of strike action being taken.

But the deputy headteacher of Rothwell Junior School, Bridget Leder, said schools could not always make formal plans for what to do in case of industrial action.

She said: “It’s very difficult because we are not entitled to ask teachers if they are part of a union. They don’t have to tell us, so we are tied by that.”

And the headteacher of Loddington School, Sue Walters, added: “Our school has never gone on strike because as a staff we feel the children’s education is too important. The staff here choose not to.”

TUC wants Government action

The Trades Union Congress has called for the Government to shift its priorities and put workers and families at the heart of any economic recovery.

Speaking at its annual conference in Bournemouth this week, general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Signs of economic recovery are obviously welcome, but they are not based on wage growth, they are based on household debt.

“There has been a six per cent cut in real pay since the crash, and people are still finding things very tough.”