SCHOOLS and council services across Hyndburn face massive disruption on Tuesday, when members of nine trade unions plan to take strike action over proposed changes to their pension scheme.
Hundreds of staff employed by Hyndburn Council and Lancashire County Council are expected to join the strike, which could see nurseries and libraries close and affect probation services and police support services.
Rubbish and recycling collections have been rescheduled in advance of the action and anyone due to have bins emptied on Tuesday will instead have them emptied next Saturday.
Anybody who needs to contact the council next week has been advised to call on Monday or Wednesday.
Schools have yet to decide whether they will open but Barry Burke, headteacher of Rhyddings High School, Oswaldtwistle, said he believed the closure of some high schools was likely as he could not guarantee the health and safety of pupils and teachers without the army of teaching assistants and ancillary staff who usually work there.
Local authority bosses have pledged to keep as many services as possible running on Tuesday and exemptions from the industrial action for certain individuals has been agreed between the unions and employers to safeguard vulnerable people.
The strike is in response to proposals to change the rules of the local government pension scheme without putting protection in place for existing members
New members of the scheme will have to retire at 65 but unions want to see some of the savings made from this reinvested in keeping the so-called rule of 85, which allows members of the scheme to retire at 60 if their age and number of years service add up to 85, for current members.
The unions dispute the Government view that it needs to be scrapped to comply with age discrimination legislation.
Unions claim members of the scheme are already among the lowest-paid, with women making up 72 per cent of members and having an average pension of £31 per week.
Unison will be the biggest union taking part along with members of Amicus, the GMB, the Transport and General Workers Union, the NUT and other smaller unions. Teachers, who are members of a separate pension scheme, will not join the strike.
Steve Watson, the Hyndburn Council branch secretary of Unison, said: "Our members provide essential services to this community.
"After years of dedicated service they are now being told that the pensions they had been promised and saved for have been cut.
"Pensions for police officers, nurses, teachers and firefighters have been protected.
"We are asking for the same protection for our members, who have paid in six per cent of their salary every year to save for retirement."
Hyndburn Council's managing director David Welsby said: "We will do our utmost to offer residents the best service we can under the circumstances and we apologise in advance for any inconvenience the strike may cause."
A Lancashire County Council spokesman said the authority was still in discussions with unions about how the strike would affect services.
In case of any emergency on Tuesday, Hyndburn Council can be contacted on 08005 875 273. News of school closures is broadcast on local radio and is available online at www.lancashire.gov.uk .