Schools closed by strike action

PUBLISHED: 19:03 17 July 2008 | UPDATED: 11:25 03 July 2010

STRIKE: The Unison picket at the town hall.

STRIKE: The Unison picket at the town hall.

Dominic Bareham

STRIKING workers forced thousands of parents to make last minute childcare arrangements and left children with learning disabilities without vital support during industrial action this week.

STRIKING workers forced thousands of parents to make last minute childcare arrangements and left children with learning disabilities without vital support during industrial action this week.

Closed signs were up at seven schools in the Great Yarmouth borough as local government staff staged the walkout on Wednesday and Thursday .

Oriel High, Cliff Park Middle, Greenacre First, Middle and Nursery and John Grant in Caister had been expected to close for both days of the strike over a 2.45pc pay increase, while Peterhouse First and Middle schools also had to close.

Wroughton First was closed on Wednesday for reception and year 2 and on Thursday for year 1 and year 3.

And to compound the situation for beleaguered parents, the teaching assistants, caretakers and office staff were not legally obliged to tell school heads they were going on strike.

A total of 22 staff - 15 from Peterhouse First and eight from the Middle school- were stood outside the gates on Wednesday and Thursday.

One of the strikers said: “We have had a lot of support from the public. People have been bringing out drinks for the workers. I don't know whether the union will be organising another strike.”

The closure of the Caister school left special needs children with nowhere to go, while 100 people with learning difficulties faced a similar situation when staff at Yarmouth Day Services, in Suffolk Road, joined the walkout.

The centre provides both community support for people in their homes and a day care service on the premises.

Claire Brown, a support worker at the day centre, said staff were struggling to cover the cost of their expenses with increases in fuel and food prices, especially as they had to wait a month before their expenses claims were paid into their accounts.

She said: “If we go out we have to pay for food and drink for packed lunches and it is hitting us hard. Then we have to wait for a month before we can get the money back.”

Other services shut during the strike included Yarmouth Library and the Town Hall was also shut leaving customers with general enquiries and council tax queries with no-one to contact. A number of staff staged a picket behind the town hall in Greyfriars Way.

But domestic bin collections were not affected.

Further disruption looks likely when members of the Public and Commercial Services Union, including driving test examiners and coastguard staff, stage their own strike during the next couple of days.

Unison called the strike because it has called for a 6pc pay rise to accommodate inflationary price rises in the cost of fuel and food.

In East Anglia, 20,000 local government employees were due to join the picket, forcing the closure of council offices.

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