STRIKING council staff return to work today after two days of industrial action described by unions as a “definite success”.

Public sector workers including teachers, refuse collectors, library staff and traffic wardens were part of a two-day strike in protest against plans for a below inflation pay rise.

Schools, leisure centres and town halls across the North-East and North Yorkshire were affected as thousands of members of the Unison and Unite unions took part.

John McDade, the regional officer for Unison, called for the Government to up their offer of a 2.5 per cent rise to six per cent.

“It is disgraceful that society allows council workers who provide cradle to the grave services to be paid such a pittance.

“Given the rise in prices, a 2.5 per cent rise is effectively a pay cut. We are hopeful that talks will start again. We are more than optimistic, we are determined to get what we want.

“We want the national employers to get back around the table and thrash out a deal.

“If they don’t, we will force a settlement through more action.”

Alan Doherty, Unison representative for staff at Darlington Borough Council said more than 1,600 members took part in the walk-out. Twelve schools were closed, another 12 were partially shut down and no bins were collected during the two days.

“The action has been a definite success,” he said.

“Even management have said that more than 50 per cent of the workforce haven’t turned in. I hope we are closer to getting a result.

The national employers thought we couldn’t deliver, but we did. I hope they will now see sense and sit down to meaningful talks.”

In North Yorkshire, union bosses estimated that about 2,500 members took action yesterday.

Peter Carroll, North Yorkshire Unison spokesman, said: “The reports from the picket lines are that the response was as strong as the previous day. This has sent a clear message that we will not accept yet another low pay increase.”

Local authority employers said last night that support for the strike was falling.

Spokeswoman Jan Parkinson said: “The only thing the unions have achieved through striking is to lose their members two days pay.

“Our last offer, which is affordable to the council taxpayer and fair to staff, remains our final offer. We remain willing to talk to the unions about the future employment terms of our workforce, but there is no more money in the pot for this year’s pay settlement.”

As many as 100,000 people across the country are thought to have taken part in the strike.