Strike by Unison staff at Birmingham City Council

Around 120 workers gathered in Centenary Square in Birmingham to protest

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Hundreds of Birmingham City Council staff are holding a one-day strike over new working contracts.

Unison staff, including care workers, cooks and cleaners, are taking action over new employment contracts.

The union said the contracts, due to start on 1 November, removed various pay enhancements and introduced "insecurity" over employment.

The council, the largest local authority in the UK, said most of its services would be operational.

It said it would be monitoring services across the city throughout the day.

'Negative equity'

The authority is run by a Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition.

About 120 people gathered in Centenary Square opposite the International Convention Centre where the Lib Dem annual conference was being held.

Workers with placards and flags attended the rally before heading to the New Bingley Hall, in Hockley where the main rally was set to be held.

Start Quote

We have to pay our bills at the end of the day like everybody else”

End Quote Mary Bates Council worker

Jeanette Cook, from Dudley, who works in the adults and community department at the council, said: "Me and my husband work for the council.

"We live in a modest three-bedroom house which is in negative equity and we will lose our house.

"When you take a job you take it with those conditions. You don't expect those conditions to change so drastically."

Mary Bates, from Birmingham, who works in elderly care at the council, said: "My money is going down. It's quite a big chunk of our money.

"We have to pay our bills at the end of the day like everybody else."

The council has previously said the contracts are fair and necessary if it is to make savings of more than £300m over the next four years.

'Think again'

Councillor Alan Rudge, cabinet member for equality and human resources, said: "Industrial action is always regrettable and disappointing but we have contingency plans in place for such outcomes - and they were proven to be effective as recently as this summer when the vast majority of city council services operated as usual when a similar one-day strike was staged."

Unison has 10,000 members at Birmingham City Council.

The council said according to figures at lunchtime, 864 people had taken part in the strike out of a headcount of 21,288, excluding school staff.

Graeme Horn, joint branch secretary of Birmingham Unison, said the strike date had been selected as it was the last day of the Lib Dem conference.

"We are calling on the Liberal Democrats to think again about these cuts in pay for their own low-paid staff," Mr Horn said.

"Our home carers, cooks, cleaners, care assistants, children's home workers and countless others just simply can't afford to have their residential pay cut by 30%, 20% or even 10%."

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