A MASSIVE public sector strike yesterday (Thursday) was a return to the industrial disputes of the 1970s, a councillor has claimed.
Tory leader Coun Robert Light spoke out after Dewsbury Moor Crematorium was one of many public facilities shut as workers from an array of unions walked in a wide-ranging dispute over pay, terms and conditions and pensions.
Council buildings, including libraries and many schools, were closed as part of a national strike involving up to two million workers.
Council leader Coun David Sheard (Lab, Heckmondwike) said he sympathised with staff who felt they had no option left but to strike.
Meanwhile Coun Light (Birstall and Birkenshaw) likened the inability to hold funerals to the infamous Winter of Discontent of 1978-79.
He said: “It just shows unions are stuck in the 1970s and that if Ed Miliband becomes prime minister it’ll be the unions running the country. It’s also a political strike. The staff didn’t want it – the unions only got the minimum number of votes they needed.”
A council spokeswoman confirmed that the crematorium on Heckmondwike Road was closed.
She added: “As soon as we knew about the industrial action we told funeral directors there would be no bookings available on this date.”
Unions including Unison, Unite, GMB, PCS and the NUT were joined by firefighters for the industrial action.
A rally and march was held in Huddersfield to protest against a one per cent pay offer from the Government. Ministers last week said public sector workers were unlikely to get an above-inflation wage rise until at least 2017.
Coun Sheard said: “I fully understand the frustration of hard-working staff being made to pay for the faults of greedy bankers.
“Especially when we’ve a government reluctant to collect tax owed by their corporate donors and who are hell-bent on cutting tax for the super-rich.”
Coun Light said bigger public sector pay rises could put a fledgling economic recovery under threat.
He added: “I do sympathise with those on lower incomes who’ve found it hard in recent times.
“That’s why the government offered pay rises to some but not to others, to protect the lowest paid.”
Services hit included housing offices, street cleaning, bin collections and SureStart children’s centres. Dewsbury Town Hall was open, but only to allow long-planned weddings to go ahead.
Kirklees were also able to keep basic services for vulnerable children and adults and for emergencies.
The council spokeswoman added: “Bins not collected on the day of the strike will be collected at the next scheduled collection and not sooner.”
Schools closed included Battyeford Primary in Mirfield, Savile Town Infant and Nursery and Thornhill Junior and Infants.
Whitechapel Primary in Cleckheaton and Hightown Junior and Infants were among those partially open.
Kirklees NUT leader Hazel Danson said: “Striking is a last resort. But it shows how fed up our staff are with the situation the Government has put us in.”
She added unmanageable work loads, pension changes and an increased retirement age of 68 are other factors.
Paul Holmes, Kirklees Unison branch secretary, said: “The atmosphere in the public sector is terrible.
“There are relentless attacks on pay, terms and conditions and pensions. Enough is enough.”