Town politicians divided over strike threat

CRAWLEY politicians are divided over the possibility of a one-day strike over changes to public sector pensions.

Public sector union UNISON balloted its members for industrial action over changes to pensions and a strike is now due on November 30.

But MP Henry Smith has warned that such action would be damaging to the local economy and would not be welcomed by Crawley people.

Crawley Borough Council leader Cllr Bob Lanzer said changes to pensions were fair and public sector workers should share the burden of of the economic recession, but Labour Cllr Peter Lamb blamed the government for leaving workers with “little alternative” but to strike.

UNISON said pension changes would mean teachers, health and local government workers would have to pay more, work longer and get less at retirement.

Mr Smith said: “Strike action is not good for jobs or economic recovery, locally and nationally. Only about a quarter of union members have voted for strike action so I think if disruption does go ahead anyway it will not be welcomed by Crawley people.

“Public sector pensions will remain amongst the best in the country but there does need to be reform to make them more affordable for the taxpayer.”

Cllr Lanzer added: “A strike at this time would just be damaging to the economic recovery. Some of the strike action could require other working people, not on strike, to also stay at home on any day of action. The proposals being tabled are fair and generous, especially compared with the private sector.”

A spokesperson for West Sussex County Council said: “We would be disappointed if there was industrial action but must stress that this is a national dispute that can only be settled at national level.

“We remain hopeful that even at this stage a resolution can still be found nationally that both matches the country’s economic circumstances and also the aspirations of staff working in local government and the public sector generally.”

Northgate Cllr Peter Lamb added: “It is very unfortunate that the actions of the government has led to this.

“These strikes will affect the lives of citizens up and down the country and none of the public sector workers I know will have taken this decision lightly, but the future consequences of the government’s proposals coupled with their continued peddling of myths has left little alternative.

“The government should reconsider its position and work to bring all parties back to the table for the benefit of citizens and public sector workers alike.”