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Stafford picket line protests as public sector workers strike

By Staffordshire Newsletter  |  Posted: July 10, 2014

  • Strikers Patrick Arblaster, a clerical assistant,, Steve Elsey, Unison branch secretary, and Sheila Hemming, welfare rights administrator

  • Hilary Mellor, Unison assistant branch secretary

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Picket lines were in place at council buildings in Stafford town centre today as public sector workers staged strikes over pay and pensions.

Members of  public sector unions representing local and central government staff ranging from care assistants to driving test examiners and teachers walked out in protest over a pay freeze imposed by the government in 2010, which has been followed by a one per cent cap on wage increases.

Meanwhile Staffordshire firefighters staged the latest in a series of strikes in protest at pension changes and a rise in their retirement age.

Steve Elsey, Unison branch secretary, said: “We are campaigning for a living wage. We hope that today will bring the government back around the negotiating table.

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"Over 500,000 local government workers are earning less than the living wage and having to be reliant on benefits. We are campaigning to put an end put an end to local government workers earning less than a living wage.

"Everyone should be able to earn a wage to be able to sustain themselves and their families without being forced to rely on benefits."

Martin Parnham, a senior clerical assistant at Staffordshire County Council said: “Everyone is finding it hard. We all have mortgages and rent to pay.

“We give the public a service and we are not getting remunerated. In terms of the cuts we are doing more for less and have extra stress with that and financial worries.

“Financially we always have to look over our shoulder to pay the rent or mortgage and bills. I know people off work with stress. 

The pickets said they had received a sympathetic response from members of the public.

"We`ve had a great response today and we`ve had many new members joining over the last few weeks or so. There’s a great sense of solidarity," Mr Elsey said.

Union member Tonia Atherdan commented: “Everyone’s generally supporting the strike”. And fellow striker Liz Marshall added:  “We are doing quite well - we`ve not had anyone say 'shame on you' yet.”

Hilary Mellor, Unison assistant branch secretary, said the picket line had been in place from 7am, and strikers were due to travel to Birmingham later in the day for a rally with Dave Prentis the union's national president.

Unions including the NUT, Unison, PCS and the GMB, as well as the Fire Brigades Union, were involved in today's action.

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