Attempt to break week-long strike by workers controlling road bridge could see council fined under 1861 legislation that pre-dates the motor car

Tim Lezard

Sutton-Bridge-UnisonAn attempt to break a week-long strike by UNISON members who control a key road bridge in Lincolnshire could see the local council fined under 1861 legislation that pre-dates the motor car.

The 3 bridge-keepers (Pictured. Image courtesy of UNISON) at the Sutton Bridge crossing near King’s Lynn have been on strike since Sunday over what UNSION says is the threat to cut their pay by 13.5%.

Local union activists have welcomed the strike as an example to others campaigning against austerity-driven council cuts to jobs and services.

The bridge workers earn between £18,500 and £22,000 a year, but the council wants to withdraw weekend and other allowances.

UNISON officials say council managers earning between £60,000 and £80,000 have been drafted in to operate the 120 year-old hydraulic swing bridge, which carries an estimated 17,000 vehicles a day between Lincolnshire and Norfolk.

Under an Act of Parliament dating back to Victorian times, boats on the River Nene have priority over road traffic on the A17, but it has emerged that the strike-breaking managers failed to open the bridge to a tugboat earlier this week.

The council could now be liable to a fine, according to UNISON.

Assistant branch secretary Gavyn Graham told UnionNews: “The council says it is taking away the bridge workers’ weekend pay enhancements and on-call allowances just to bring everyone back in line with other council staff, but no-one believes that.

“These are low-paid workers and they need the weekend enhancements to get by.”

Despite the small number of people involved in the dispute, the strikers have received strong backing from other unions in the area.

Nick Parker, Secretary of the Lincoln and District Trades Council, said: “The local council has already slashed over 1,000 jobs, but there has never been a strike like this.

“So we think this is an example to others to fight back against austerity.

“If they are able to win this, it will give people across the region confidence to win, too. More power to their elbow.”

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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