Apprenticeships plan for strike wages

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UNPAID wages totalling £405,000 from when Sheffield Council staff went on strike will be used to help expand the authority’s apprenticeship programme.

Around 45 per cent of the council’s 12,000 staff took part in the walkout on November 30 in protest about changes to their pensions.

Opposition Lib Dems had suggested using the unpaid wages from the day towards the council’s ongoing apprenticeship programme.

Coun Bryan Lodge, Sheffield Council cabinet member for finance, said: “I’m really pleased to see that the Lib Dems are now supporting our apprenticeship scheme, despite initially opposing its introduction.

“I’m happy to confirm that the money saved by the council in wages as a result of the recent strike action will be used to support the 2012/13 costs associated with Labour’s apprenticeship programme, which is to run over two years.”

Coun Lodge added: “Given that the Lib Dems are now supportive of the Sheffield Apprenticeship Scheme, I hope they will join Labour in lobbying the Deputy Prime Minister to allow the council to use some of the youth contract fund announced recently to increase the number of apprentices that we can take on via the scheme.”

Sheffield is in line to receive up to £10 million of the £1 billion in national funding available through the Youth Contract programme.

Coun Mohammed said: “We can’t afford to leave our young men and women on the scrap heap. We need the next generation to help us build a new economy.

“The Lib Dem plan would see the current local apprenticeship programme virtually double, seeing an increase of nearly 100 posts.”

Lib Dems say Government help to create apprenticeships has seen 5,440 posts in Sheffield during 2010/11.

The figure is an increase of around 45 per cent from the year before.