THERE was precious little sympathy on the streets of South Shields for borough council workers who have been offered a “paltry” 0.6 per cent pay rise.
A straw poll of shoppers in King Street found most people believe local authority staff should accept the increase – their first for three years.
The Unison trade union, which represents 300,000 workers nationally, is recommending rejection of the deal.
It has labelled the offer “derisory”, and points to the fact that its members have not had a wage rise since 2009 because of the economc climate.
But handyman Tony Malcolm, 50, from South Shields, does not believe council staff should be treated as a “special case”.
He said: “My message to those workers would be just to get on with it, and accept the pay offer. The union says its members haven’t had a rise in three years. Well, I haven’t had a rise in three years, and a lot of people in the private sector haven’t had a pay rise either.
“I don’t believe the council is a ‘special case’, or whatever the phrase may be.
“We’d all like to see our salaries rise, but the reality is people are lucky to be in work.”
Unemployed Derek Kenneth Dixon, 22, of Stewart Crescent, Marsden, agreed.
He said: “I live in a one-bedroom flat and there is damp in the loft.
“The ceiling is bevelling. The council said they would come out ages ago to sort it out, but nothing’s happened.
“I don’t have a lot of sympathy for council workers. They should take the rise and be grateful for it.
“Everyone is under pressure these days. I’m looking for work, and my benefits will probably be affected by the new welfare reforms.
“We are all under financial pressure.”
Businesswoman Louise Ogunona, 33, opened up the Little Sweet Shop, off King Street, late last year.
She said: “If I had the choice between no job and a job without a prospect of a pay rise for a long time, I’d take the job.
“Having said that, it’s hard because the price of everything else is going up and wages are not. It’s tough.”
Shop assistant Angela Temple, 34, said: “Ideally, you want a secure job and regular pay rises. But that’s not possible these days.”
Pensioner Stan Minchell, 83, of Norham Avenue North, South Shields, was one of the few people who had real sympathy with the council staff’s wage dilemma.
He said: “My daughter works as a cleaner at Mowbray School, and she’s there in the morning and at night. It’s really tough work, and she doesn’t get paid a lot, so it’s a struggle.
“I think 0.6 per cent after a three -year pay freeze is a real insult. I wouldn’t accept it, and I can understand the union’s anger.
“I feel particular sympathy for the council workers at the lowest end of the pay scale. They are the ones suffering the most.”
South Shields shopper Harvey Collins, 77, said: “Beggars can’t be choosers.”
He said: “We live in hard times, very hard times, and some crazy decisions are being made. I can see both sides.
“The Government has difficult decisions to make to cut the deficit, which means people are suffering. The wrong people are suffering.
“I couldn’t believe Cameron was standing up for the bankers and their bonuses the other day.
“I’d say let these people leave the country. They got us into this mess.”