MANY Swindon Council services could grind to a halt next month as hundreds of staff go on strike.

Earlier this week Unison announced strike action on July 10 by local government workers in a dispute over a national pay increase.

There are 815 union workers within the council of which 785 are members of Unison. The rest are with GMB and Unite which are balloting their members over action on the same date.

The disruption will be heightened as the National Union of Teachers (NUT) has also called a strike for that day, which could see the closure of some schools.

The full impact of the strike is not yet known as members do not have to let their employers know in advance of the date whether they are joining in with the action.

Negotiations are taking place between Unison and the council over which services will be exempt from the strike because of their importance, but libraries and waste collection are among those which may be affected.

At the heart of the dispute is a disagreement over pay increases.

The Government’s offer is for increases of between 1.25 per cent and 4.66 per cent for those on the bottom six pay points and one per cent for the remainder of employees. Chief officers have not been offered a pay increase.

Tanya Palmer, the South West regional manager for Unison, said the strike was aimed at sending a message to the Government.

She said: “There has been a three-year pay freeze for local government workers, and our members – many of whom are very low paid women – have said enough is enough.

“The rise which the Govern-ment have offered would still mean workers are worse off, so our members want to send a message that this is not acceptable.

“This is one of the lowest paid groups of workers in the country and it is not right that public sector workers are treated in this way.

“No-one wants to go on strike as those who do lose a day’s pay, but that shows how strongly everyone feels about this.

“What I would say to people affected by the strike is that we need to stay strong. These people do a vital job and deserve to be rewarded.

“We are pushing for a four per cent rise but that is a negotiation position. If the Government do not listen then we are prepared to take more action in September.”

The result of the ballot by the other two unions is expected later this month. The NUT action follows several days of action earlier this year and last year in a dispute over pay and working conditions.

The effect on schools is not yet known but as soon as more details are available they will be reported here on our website.