Members of the trade union Unite are taking industrial action in Gwynedd right now, with workers in the county taking action between last Monday and this coming Sunday, 17 September.
The central issue is pay — with GMB and Unite acting together in a joint national council to push for higher pay and better working conditions from local authorities up and down the UK.
The National Employers’ pay offer is a flat £1,925. Because different staff are on different grades, the £1,925 offer equates to a pay increase of between 3.88 per cent and 9.42 per cent, depending on an individual’s pay grade.
While there is some disruption to services in Gwynedd, the council itself says it won’t know the full effect of the industrial action until the week is done, and it says it is working hard to mitigate any effects of the strike on local communities.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that local authorities across the UK are in dire financial straits.
In Woking, ill-advised real estate dealings drove the council to bankruptcy.
Birmingham City Council, responsible for running the second-largest local authority in England, has also recently warned it is skint.
And up and down Wales, our councils are dealing with the effects of 13 years of underfunding by Westminster.
Everyone who pays property tax knows only too well how the rate increases have bitten into family budgets. And anyone who drives on a local road, depends on bus services, has a relative in care, has a child in a classroom, or has to rely on any of the myriad of services offered by councils, knows the effects of year after year of cuts.
Already, the Welsh Local Government Association is warning that there is a £400 million black hole in council finances. And that means that every one of us will be paying more in taxes and receiving less in services when it all plays out.
While we sympathise with the striking council staff, the reality is that any further increases will come from our one cash-strapped wallets.
What’s that they say about a council job being a job for life? It mostly is — but push too far and cut too deep, and many of those council jobs will have to go.