COUNCIL workers across Rushmoor took up positions on picket lines on July 17 to protest against poor rates of pay.

The unions are calling for a pay increase of six per cent or £1,750, whichever is the greater, in a bid to attract new staff into the area as well as retain existing staff struggling to cope on low wages.

Jan Matthews, a senior steward for UNISON, said: "We have people on £10,000 a year. They can't afford to live in this area and we can't attract people into the area or retain the staff we've got.

"It puts staff under a lot of pressure. Many of them work longer hours than they're meant to be working to make sure services are covered.

"Most of my members are out working today. They have exemption from the action because they are care workers.

"One thing we would not do is neglect vulnerable people."

She added: "Although we are frontline staff, providing care and carrying out some nursing care for the elderly, disabled and vulnerable people in our community, we are not considered key workers and do not benefit from any schemes for key workers."

Picketing outside the old Town Hall in Grosvenor Road, Aldershot, TGWU shop steward Roger Monk said: "This is about central government not releasing funds to councils.

"These people are in the caring professions. They don't do their jobs for the money but because of the people they help. That said, they need to be able to live."

There were also picket lines outside the Rushmoor Council offices and the Harlington Centre in Fleet.

The strike follows the breakdown of negotiations in which staff were given the final offer of a three per cent increase.

The unions say further action will follow if demands are ignored.

It is the first strike held by all three local government unions — UNISON, the TGWU and the GMB union — since 1989.

Our picture shows UNISON pickets at the social services office in Aldershot.