Strikers seek pound;4,000 for capital work

7th March 2003 at 00:00
AROUND 70 schools in the capital were hit by industrial action this week as non-teaching staff went on strike in support of a pound;4,000 London weighting allowance.

The week-long action targeted selected schools and libraries in 17 London boroughs. Staff including classroom assistants, caterers and caretakers walked out and at least 16 schools had to close for all or part of the week.

Around 200 strikers attended a rally in Whitechapel, east London. Poppy Wright, an administrative assistant and meals supervisor at Bluegate Fields infants, Wapping, said: "We are doing a public service, living in London on a very low wage and feel we are entitled to a proper London weighting.

Police officers, nurses and fire fighters have all been given it."

Pat Forward, a nursery nurse from Noel Park primary school, Wood Green, north London, said she should get the same weighting as the teachers she works with: "We are on a 40-week contract in outer London which means we only get an extra pound;1,000 per year."

Unison and the Transport and General Workers Union say the allowances, around pound;2,600 for their inner London members and pound;1,400 for those in outlying boroughs, make finding staff difficult. They also point out that the same authorities have already offered pound;4,300 in London weighting to the firefighters.

Julia Coleman, Unison regional official, said: "London's councils are wasting millions of pounds plugging the gaps in local services by using expensive agency staff. They should spend the money on paying decent wages for permanent staff."

Ann John, chair of the Greater London Provincial Council, said: "London councils quite simply don't have the money to meet union demands."

The National Union of Teachers has not ruled out further strikes over pay in the capital, although this year's deal will see inner-London classroom teachers earning up to almost pound;6,000 more than their counterparts elsewhere in the country.

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