THE leader of Worcester City Council has stuck his neck out by criticising next week's public sector strikes.
Councillor Simon Geraghty has courted controversy by saying he is "personally disappointed" about the walk-out on Thursday which threatens to cripple services across the county.
As your Worcester News first revealed last month, the so-called "day of action' will see council workers, teachers, fire service staff and other public sector employees down tools for a day amid a pay dispute.
It is unclear how many council staff will stay at the picket line, but contingency plans are being hastily drawn up to minimise any impact.
Cllr Geraghty, a Conservative, is also deputy leader of Worcestershire County Council, where the Unison branch has been among the country's most vocal recently over pay and conditions.
He says the strikes are taking place just at a time when the economy is starting to improve, which has led to one per cent pay rises kicking in.
It follows a one per cent pay rise last year, which came after three successive years of freezes.
Cllr Geraghty, speaking during a council meeting, said: "This authority recognises employees have a right to strike, they can do that.
"But I personally find it disappointing that the unions nationally do continue to argue for a strike at a time when the economy is just starting to turn."
Councillor Neil Laurenson, a Worcester Green politician, said since 2010 local government workers have suffered a 20 per cent real-terms pay cut, and insisted "local and national issues" were dragging them down.
Cllr Geraghty then said: "I do understand the pressures, that's what councils across the country are having to balance.
"But I don't think, at this time when we're seeing small pay rises coming through that it's the right time to strike."
He said in terms of the city council, it has a good, positive relationship with the unions and cited "national issues" as the driver behind the strikes.
The strike threatens to be the biggest in the UK since 2010, with the Fire Brigades Union adding to the militant mood this past Wednesday when it announced it was joining in.
Among the unions, Unite has called the deal "insulting" with spokeswoman Fiona Farmer claiming many workers are now on "poverty pay".