Council staff plan alternative carol service

WAGE DEMAND ... Unison rep Merv Butler.
WAGE DEMAND ... Unison rep Merv Butler.

SOUTH Tyneside Council workers will strike a chord for local government pay tomorrow by performing specially re-written Christmas carols.

Workers are set to gather on the steps of South Shields Town Hall from 12.30pm.

They will be belting out some famous festive carols – all of which have received a special twist to highlight plummeting pay in the public sector and support for the national claim of a minimum £1 an hour extra in pay come 2014/15.

For the classic In the Bleak Midwinter, the lyrics have been changed to include: “In the bleak midwinter, council workers’ pay, Won’t buy Christmas presents, There really is no way.”

To the tune of Once in Royal David’s City, the lyrics have been altered to say: “Here in this poor battered city, Hit by coalition cuts, Unison calls for a pay rise, council workers’ pay is nuts.”

Merv Butler, branch secretary for Unison South Tyneside, described the sing-a-long as “light-hearted, but with a serious message”.

The gathering is not industrial action, as it is taking place in the workers lunch break.

But council staff across the country are being urged to join in song to protest at the loss of 18 per cent of their pay since 2010 – with an estimated 500,000 now earning less than the minimum wage.

Mr Butler said: “We have written to our members and to borough councillors, inviting them to come along in support of the national claim for a minimum of an extra £1 per hour for 2014/15.

“To reach the Living Wage of £7.65 an hour for the lowest paid, we would need an increase of £1.20 per hour.

“Unison has launched a campaign for at least an extra £1 an hour for all our members working in local government.

“They’re the people who will be working over Christmas gritting roads, looking after the elderly, caring for the vulnerable families, keeping communities together, and we know that they deserve at least and extra £1 and hour.

“We’re hoping for a decent turn-out for this Strike A Chord event to really get our message across.”

Twitter: @shieldsgazpaul

InThe Bleak Midwintrer - protest version

IN the bleak midwinter,

 Council workers’ pay

Won’t buy Christmas presents

 There really is no way.

In the bleak midwinter

 We’re doing more for less

We want a pound an hour

 To end this mess.

The coalition’s pay freeze

 Has hit us treble hard

And promises from Osborne

 Weren’t worth a pound of lard.

The cuts have hit conditions

 Like overtime and fuel

We’ve lost one fifth of earnings,

 Osborne is cruel.

The Living Wage eludes us

 A half-million earn less

Most of us are women

 Our kids suffer, we ’fess.

School clothes are out the window,

 No laptops or meals out

We want you to support us

 So please – just shout!

How can you help us

 Win a deal on pay?

If we don’t get it this year

 We’ll go all the way.

Please tell all your neighbours,

 MPs and councillors too

To settle on our pay claim

 And get us through.