Disruption expected to schools, council service and fire services across Waveney during day of strike action

Graham White of Suffolk NUT

Graham White of Suffolk NUT - Credit: Archant

Thousands of council workers, firefighters, teachers and school support staff across the region are striking today in an ongoing dispute with the government over pay and conditions.

Members of the National Union of Teachers are joining in the strike action, as part of their ongoing campaign over teachers' pay, pensions and workload.

In Suffolk, a total of 59 schools are affected by the industrial action with 17 closed.

Schools closed in the Lowestoft area include Pakefield High, The Ashley School Academy Trust and Warren School.

Meanwhile Elm Tree Community Primary, Fen Park Primary, Poplars Community Primary, Benjamin Britten High School and the Harbour Pupil Referral Unit are partially open as a result of the industrial action.

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In Beccles, Crowfoot Community Primary and St Benet's Catholic Primary School are partially open.

Some council services have also been hit as members of trade unions UNISON, GMB, Unite take industrial action today over a pay offer of 1pc for those earning more than £14,880.

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Disruption is expected at Waveney District Council with Bungay and Halesworth local offices staying closed all day today.

With many key services likely to be stretched, the authority is asking people not to visit the council today unless the enquiry is urgent.

A Suffolk County Council spokesman said only 20pc of council staff were members of UNISON and the authority was not anticipating any disruption to services as a result of the striek action.

In Lowestoft, striking workers will take part in a demonstration outside the Benjamin Britten Centre in London Road North at 1pm followed by a rally outside the United Reformed Church at 2pm.

The FBU strikes, will take place between 10am and 7pm are due to a national dispute between the government and the FBU over changes to the pension scheme.

Fire services are expected to be drastically reduced across Suffolk during this time and people are being advised to take extra care today.

A Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: 'We anticipate having approximately half of the normal resource available which is similar to previous strikes we have experienced over the last few months.

'There will be 20 fire appliances operating across the county, giving good and county-wide coverage.

'We are strongly advising everyone to exercise extra caution during the strike period when fire cover in the county will be reduced by taking simple measures such as testing smoke alarms, avoiding the use of candles and naked flames, avoiding lighting fires outside and driving with extra care.'

Yesterday Graham White, secretary of Suffolk NUT, said the union had to object to the proposals of the government, which he says impose greater stress on teachers while reducing their salary and increasing their pension contributions.

'You have a simple choice really,' he said. 'Either you say that government wins and we'll accept lower pay, we'll accept people dying on the job, we'll accept the massive recruitment and retention crisis, and 40pc of teachers leaving some schools in a year, we're not going to do anything about it.

'But that's a ridiculous point to take, that's why we have to continue to fight for what we believe in and to protect the education system.'

He also threatened that the union could take multiple day strike action in the future and said that he hoped the strike would 'have an impact on the election' by making more people aware of the policies of the current government.

However the Department for Education said further strikes would only disrupt the lives of parents, hold back children's education and damage the reputation of the profession.

A spokesman added: 'There is no justification for further strikes. The unions asked for talks, we agreed to their request and talks are ongoing. Ministers have also met frequently with the unions and will continue to do so.'

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