5:08am Monday 7th July 2014
MORE than 18,000 Gwent union members are set to strike on Thursday, including teachers, fire fighters, dinner ladies and local government workers, in various disputes over pay and pensions.
Bin collections are set to be missed and burials moved to different days as an estimated two million union members will strike in what the GMB are describing as the second biggest union walk out ever across Wales, England and Northern Ireland.
Most Gwent schools are predicted to shut on Thursday due to the mass joint action by members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), Unison, Unite, the Fire Brigade's Union, the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union and the GMB.
Firefighters will walk out between 10am and 7pm on July 10.
Many public sector workers, such as those in local government, are protesting against what they describe as an "insulting" one per cent pay rise offer, while the likes of the NUT oppose cuts to existing pay and pensions.
Glasllwch Primary and St Julian's School in Newport, Abertillery Comprehensive and Risca Comprehensive School have already informed parents they will be closing for the day due to staff shortages, although organised trips will still go ahead.
Newport High School will be closed to Years 11, 12 and 13 but will remain open for Years 7, 8 and 9, while Llanwern High School will be open to Years 9, 10 and 12 only.
Torfaen council has warned that negotiations between employers and trade unions are ongoing and changes could happen right up until the day of the strike.
A spokesman said: "Negotiations with the trade unions are ongoing for employees delivering ‘life and limb’ council services such as personal care, protection of vulnerable children and adults and meals on wheels to receive exemption from the industrial action and it is expected these services will operate as normal."
Pontypool's Civic Centre is likely will be open for staff but residents are advised to phone ahead before trying to visit and any payments should be made online or in advance.
Leisure services transferred to the Torfaen Leisure Trust will not be affected.
Dominic MacAskill, local government officer for Unison based in Swansea, said they have around 12,000 members in Gwent and predicted a further 6,000 to strike from Unite, the GMB and the NUT.
No rallies are planned in Gwent, with the nearest being in Cardiff, although pickets are expected around local government offices.
More than one union has told the Argus they expect most schools to be closed - with teachers, caretakers, support staff and dinner ladies all off.
Mr MacAskill said this was the biggest strike he could remember since mass action three years ago by health and local government workers over pensions.
Unite national officer for local government Fiona Farmer said the aim is to get employers back round the table to negotiate what she describes as a fair deal for workers, namely a £1 an hour pay rise for local council staff.
Owen Hathway, policy officer for NUT Wales said striking members will sacrifice a day’s pay and pension and the decision "was not taken lightly".
GMB national secretary, Brian Strutton said his members voted three to one in favour of strike action.
"We have tried sensible discussions, we've sought to negotiate reasonably...but to everything we've tried the employers have said "no"," he said. "So we have no choice."
He said that in October, the national minimum wage is predicted to overtake local authority pay scales.
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