How will the national strike hit you?

A UNISON protest  ouside of the Town Hall
A UNISON protest ouside of the Town Hall
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SCHOOLS could be closed, hospitals and GP surgeries affected and services for elderly and vulnerable people hit after Sheffield Council staff voted to join a national walkout in protest at pension changes.

Local government and NHS workers in the Unison trade union backed the strike on Wednesday, November 30, with a 78 per cent majority in a turnout of less than one-third.

The strike will potentially hit all services provided by Sheffield Council - such as libraries and social services - after Unison, the biggest union at the Town Hall, voted to join the walkout.

There are 12,000 staff at Sheffield Council, around half of whom are in a union.

Job Centre Plus and the UK Border Agency offices in Sheffield and other parts of South Yorkshire are also likely to close as their staff - members of the PCS union - have already voted to strike.

Teachers in both the main unions, the NUT and NASUWT, are balloting for strike action, along with council workers in the GMB and Unite unions. The results of their ballots will be revealed in the coming weeks.

But teaching assistants, admin staff, caretakers and caterers who are part of Unison will be taking part in the strike, along with hospital support staff in the same union.

Housing maintenance, now subcontracted to Kier but which still has a small number of staff in the local government pension scheme who will be walking out, will be affected to a lesser degree but bin collections will not be hit.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union are not participating in the strike but off-duty staff are likely to join demonstrations by other unions.

Unison Regional Organiser Chris Jenkinson, based in Sheffield, said: “We understand that further negotiations are planned between the trade unions and the government but we are fully prepared to take the industrial action members have voted for.

“Unless and until further real progress is made and acceptable offers are made in the negotiations, we are firmly committed to taking action on November 30.”

He added: “Members of the public do not want to see any disruption and the people taking part in the strike are not militant workers. Ordinary people I have spoken to recognise that we are dealing with an intransigent government and have some sympathy.”

Sheffield Council said it is too early to reveal the impact of the strike on services.

Julie Toner, director of human resources, said: “We are awaiting the outcome of the union ballots and, if the industrial action does go-ahead, we will do our utmost to maintain essential services for local people.”

Sheffield Council has pledged to do its best to ensure services to the most vulnerable people continue, however, social services and community care will be affected to some extent.

Council leader Coun Julie Dore said: “Although I entirely support the right of workers to withhold their labour, I also feel that strike action should be used as a last resort, and in the majority of cases employers and employees can sit round the table and come to agreements, therefore avoiding the need for strikes wherever possible.”