POLL: Do you support the public sector workers’ strike?

PARENTS across Eastbourne have been left in the dark as to whether or not their children’s schools will close as part of a national public sector strike.

Scores of teachers are expected to join the industrial day of action on Wednesday – meaning hundreds of pupils will miss a day of lessons.

However, mums and dads hoping to arrange care for their youngsters have been left frustrated by the fact only a handful of schools have confirmed whether they will close or remain open.

Yesterday afternoon just five local schools had announced they will close their doors to students during the strike, with another confirming it will remain partially open for the day.

Hazel Court, Oakwood, Ocklynge, Parkland and Polegate will remain shut while Wilingdon Community School will operate a skeleton staff so that any year 11s can go in an use the computers or study areas to revise for their forthcoming mock GCSE exams. Any parents who cannot arrange care for the children are also allowed to send them to school as usual.

Thomas A Becket does not appear on the county council’s official list of closed schools – which is updated every five minutes – but staff have contacted parents to say it will be joining the strike and staying shut.

East Sussex County Council has run into problems trying to make contingency plans, both for schools and the other local services the authority provides, because union members are not obliged to inform bosses of their decision to stay away.

The UK-wide strike has been called after talks over pension reforms for public sector workers ground to a halt and thousands of state-employed workers are expected to down tools for the day.

Others face a dilemma over whether or not to cross pickets manned by colleagues.

Becky Shaw, chief executive of the county council said all that could be done to prepare for the strike was being. She said, “We recognise that the proposed changes to pensions are of concern to many of our staff.

“However, we must ensure that essential services are maintained throughout any industrial action because of the potential impact on those in the community who depend on our services.

“We will prioritise services to ensure we continue to meet our obligations.”

And it was a similar story at Eastbourne Borough Council, although town hall officials were confident the impact on every day business would be kept to a minimum.

A spokesman for the council told the Herald on Thursday, “In the past less than 20 per cent of the trade union membership within Eastbourne Borough Council has gone on strike on a nominated day of action.

“Since fewer than a third of the council’s employees belong to a trade union we do not anticipate a significant impact on the delivery of essential frontline services.

“It remains possible that this year will see an increase in numbers choosing to take action and the council will take all reasonable steps to protect delivery of its priority and core services to the community.”

Frontline emergency services staff are unlikely to join the strike, although backroom and admin staff could stay away.

Of particular concern of locals will be whether or not the DGH will be significantly staffed.

As with council staff, not all NHS union members have declared their intentions. However, a spokesman for the trust which runs the hospital said, “We have been working with staff side representatives to try to anticipate the number of staff who will be available for work on the day to ensure we have staff to provide essential services.

“Our overriding objective during the industrial action is to ensure we continue to provide high quality and safe services to patients.

“We have contingency plans in place to ensure quality of patient care is not compromised if there is any significant disruption to supporting services.”

For a comprehensive list of services and schools which will be affected by the strike action – and for reaction from the town’s MP and local union officials, see Wednesday’s Gazette.