Birmingham council staff and teachers walk out as strike intensifies
More than half of Birmingham’s schools were closed today as the impact of a strike by teachers and council staff was felt across the city.
The walkout by the National Union of Teachers coincided with a two-day stoppage by five Council House unions, who are protesting against a new pay and grading system.
A council spokeswoman said 164 out of 441 schools were fully closed and a further 84 were partially closed. The figure is far higher than yesterday when caretakers and teaching assistants taking part in the council strike forced 60 schools to close.
More manual workers were on strike today, with two of the four council street services depots closed compared to only one yesterday.
Pickets prevented most rounds from leaving the Lifford Lane and Perry Barr depots, severely disrupting refuse collections in Sutton Coldfield and the south of the city. That meant only half of all black bin bag collection services were operating as normal.
The council is advising households to take any uncollected bags inside and put them out again on Saturday, when they will be collected.
Street sweepers, who ignored the order to strike on Wednesday, also joined in today and about half of all rounds across the city were cancelled.
About half of the city’s community libraries were closed and most neighbourhood offices. However, the majority of leisure centres remained open.
Council leaders expect the number of staff staying at home today to be higher than yesterday’s estimate of 3,973, but do not believe support for industrial action will be as great as February’s one-day strike which was backed by 9,424 employees.
Alan Rudge, cabinet Member for equalities and human resources, said: "Clearly the level of support for this strike is far below that of the previous action, proving that the unions at a national level are increasingly out-of-step with their local members and their interests.
"The majority of services have thankfully been able to operate at as close to full capacity as possible, including both schools and refuse collection. However we would still like to apologise to anyone who may have been affected by the strike."
The long-running dispute is over the Single Status pay and grading review, which has changed the contracts of 40,000 council workers in an attempt to iron out pay inequalities between men and women.
About half have of the workforce has been given a pay rise, but 5,000 people face wage cuts.
Coun Rudge (Con Sutton Vesey) said he believed most employees were happy with the changes.
He added: "More than 63 per cent of staff have already accepted their new contracts and we are continuing to talk to both unions and employees with a view to reaching agreement on our new improved offer, which will further reduce the number of people losing money, increase the number gaining and further improve terms and conditions for all."