Strike action to hit schools

Protesters at the rally outside The Mansion House, Doncaster.
Protesters at the rally outside The Mansion House, Doncaster.
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SCHOOLS could be closed across Doncaster for a day later this month after council workers voted to strike.

Members of the Doncaster Council branch of Unison voted two to one to walk out in their ballot over action on job losses and changes to conditions, which closed yesterday.

Officials at the branch predicted the action would impact heavily on schools, who may also be missing teachers under action from teaching unions.

Unison’s members include classroom assistants, lunchtime supervisors, cleaners and other non teaching school staff.

The action will also affect staff such as grounds maintenance staff, council drivers, and social workers.

The union vote saw 66 per cent in favour of taking strike action, from a turnout of 31 per cent, which unions consider to be a high figure.

Officers at the Doncaster branch are looking to strike on Thursday June 30, to co-ordinate their action with other unions who are expected to be striking, including teachers and civil servants.

More days could follow throughout the summer.

The union called the ballot because of concerns over job losses and changes to staff conditions of service resulting from spending cuts at the council.

Hundreds of job losses were announced last year, and another 700 are expected to go this year.

Doncaster Unison branch secretary Jim Board said: “We are looking to co-ordinate with other unions’ industrial action.

“Obviously we are really pleased with the result of the ballot, given that there is a great deal of fear and anxiety about what the future holds. We are pleased our members have taken a strong position.

“We recognise our members have not taken this decision lightly, but we believe it is the right decision at the right time. They have had enough and are not prepared to pay for the financial problems the Government is in.

“We expect the vast majority of Doncaster community schools will close because of the action.

“There will also be widespread impact on other council services and this will set the scene for further negotiation with Doncaster Council.

“It is a one day strike, and there will be widespread disruption to council services across the board. We will be looking at possible further action throughout the summer, as we have authorisation for continuous and escalating industrial action.”

The strike ballot is the latest action by unions over cuts. Unions held a major town centre march and rally against planned cuts in December.

Members of the NUT and ATL teaching unions are already due to strike over pensions cuts on the same day, and are planning a rally through Doncaster in the morning.

Doncaster’s NUT branch secretary John Coward said: “I think if Unison are coming out as well as the NUT and ATL, it is likely most Doncaster schools will be closed.

“Had it been just the two teachers’ unions I think we would have been looking at a quarter of secondary schools and about half the primary schools.

“A lot of the site managers who open the buildings are in Unison.”

Council chief executive Rob Vincent was disappointed with the ballot result.

He said: “I am disappointed with the outcome but we will continue to meet with unions and discuss the areas of the proposed changes over which they have expressed concern.”