Strike threat looms over Welwyn Hatfield
PUBLISHED: 17:40 17 October 2011
A WAVE of public sector strikes threatens to engulf Welwyn Hatfield as tensions over pay and pensions reach boiling point.
Three of the main trade unions – Unison, Unite and GMB – are threatening to bring chaos to the borough as teachers, binmen and water workers are to be balloted for strike action.
The potential stoppages could signal a winter of discontent among public sector employees unhappy at stagnated wages, sub-inflation pay rises and perceived “attacks” on pensions.
Householders, still reeling from extended ‘teething problems’ with new refuse collection rounds, face having rubbish and recycling rotting at the roadside once more, if Serco binmen walk out.
The GMB has called for a strike ballot of its Veolia Water Central workers over a 2.5 per cent pay rise, which, with inflation running at five per cent, it says amounts to an effective 2.5 per cent cut.
Hatfield-based Veolia, formerly Three Valleys Water, covers a huge swathe of south-eastern England, including most of Hertfordshire.
The union’s organiser Mick Ainsley said: “GMB members working for Veolia Water Central are so incensed by the current pay offer from the company that they have voted by 92 per cent to ask the GMB CEC for authority for an official strike ballot if there is no improvement.”
Mr Ainsley said the pay offer was extra galling with company directors being given inflation-busting increases.
Keith Luxon, Veolia’s human resources director, said: “At present there has been no ballot on industrial action and we hope this will be avoided.”
In the event of a walkout there were “robust plans” to minimise any disruption to customers, he said.
Serco spokesman Adam Fergie said any threatened action was nationwide and the company did not set pay levels for staff.
He told the WHT: “Should national industrial action be confirmed, naturally we will make every effort to minimise disruption to any of the services we provide to local communities.”
Meanwhile, more than a million public sector workers represented by Unison are to vote on strike action in a dispute over pension changes.
A walkout, which could affect teaching assistants, probation officers, nurses, social workers, dinner ladies and hospital cleaners, is being mooted after the Government said they should contribute more to their pensions.
The plan would see teachers paying 9.6 per cent into their pension pot as opposed to the current rate of between 5.5 and 7.5 per cent.
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