Schools set to shut as staff say strike

Pippa Dodgshon, Headteacher at Hall Cross School.
Pippa Dodgshon, Headteacher at Hall Cross School.

SCHOOLS across Doncaster are set to be forced to close next week after council workers voted to strike.

Members of Doncaster Council’s Unison branch have voted two to one to walk out over job losses and changes to conditions.

Union officials predicted the action would impact heavily on schools, who may also be missing teachers under action from teaching unions.

Unison’s members include classroom assistants, lunchtime supervisors, cleaners and other non-teaching school staff.

The action will also affect staff such as grounds maintenance workers, council drivers, and social workers.

The vote saw 66 per cent in favour of a strike, from a turnout of 31 per cent, which unions consider to be a high figure.

Officers are looking to strike on Thursday, June 30, to co-ordinate their action with other unions who are expected to be downing tools, including teachers and civil servants.

More days could follow throughout the summer.

The union called the ballot following council spending cuts which will see the authority have to save £70 million over four years.

Hundreds of job losses were announced last year, and earlier this month the Free Press revealed another 700 are expected to go this year.

Jim Board, Doncaster Unison branch secretary, said: “Obviously we are really pleased with the result of the ballot, given that there is a great deal of fear and anxiety about what the future holds. We are pleased our members have taken a strong position.

“We recognise our members have not taken this decision lightly, but we believe it is the right decision at the right time. They have had enough and are not prepared to pay for the financial problems the Government is in.

“We expect the vast majority of Doncaster community schools will close because of the action.

“There will also be widespread impact on other council services and this will set the scene for further negotiation with Doncaster Council.

“It is a one day strike, and there will be widespread disruption to council services across the board. We will be looking at possible further action throughout the summer, as we have authorisation for continuous and escalating industrial action.”

The strike ballot is the latest action by unions over cuts. Unions held a major town centre march and rally against planned cuts in December.

Members of the NUT and ATL teaching unions are already due to strike over pensions cuts on the same day.

Doncaster’s NUT branch secretary John Coward said: “I think if Unison are coming out as well as the NUT and ATL, it is likely most Doncaster schools will be closed.

“Had it been just the two teachers’ unions I think we would have been looking at a quarter of secondary schools and about half the primary schools.

“A lot of the site managers who open the buildings are in Unison.”

Rob Vincent, chief executive of Doncaster Council said: “I am disappointed with the outcome but we will continue to meet with unions and discuss the areas of the proposed changes over which they have expressed concern.”