THOUSANDS of council staff and school workers could go on strike next month.
Up to 9,000 workers across Hampshire could walk out as part of a bitter dispute over pay.
Unions have rejected a pay offer from the Local Government Association (LGA), and will ballot their members this week.
They say council staff and schools support workers saw a pay-freeze between 2009 and 2012 and a one per cent increase last year.
Last year the three unions representing the workers – Unite, Unison and the GMB – submitted a pay claim asking that the Government rubberstamp a minimum increase of £1 an hour for workers, many of whom they say are only just above the national minimum wage.
Since then the LGA has come back with an offer of a one per cent increase, and slightly more for workers on the lowest pay brackets, which would come out of Government coffers.
But union bosses labelled the offer “insulting”, and most members have rejected the offer.
That means up to 9,000 workers at Hampshire County Council, Southampton, Fareham, Eastleigh and the New Forest will now decide whether to strike or not.
Although no fixed date has been set, July 10 is a possible date for strike action to take place across the country.
Ian Woodland, Unite’s political officer for Hampshire and the South East, said: “We want to address the low pay issue in Hampshire and the public sector as a whole.
“It’s a big concern to us because we found many more people having their money topped up with benefits and having to use food banks because they are stuck in wage poverty.”