Thousands of public sector workers are set to strike next month in what is expected to be one of the biggest walkouts in recent years.

In Brighton and Hove alone, up to 6,500 council employees including bin men, admin staff and cleaners could strike. GMB, Unison and Unite are leading the action with NHS staff also set to be balloted.

It is not known at this stage if teachers will join the walkout.

The action, which is being held across the country, is over pay – with unions claiming members have suffered a 15% pay cut in real terms across the last five years.

Local government workers have had a three year pay freeze, followed by a below inflation pay deal and have now been offered a 1% rise.

The strike will be held just days before the TUC organised national demonstration on October 1, where there will be a call for improved pay.

Alex Knutsen, chair of Brighton and Hove Unison, said: “Most of our members are low paid despite what people may believe. They have seen just a 1% pay rise in just five years while living costs continue to rocket. Not only are they getting less money in real terms but they are also being expected to work more. The action will be the biggest we have seen in a few years – perhaps back to 2011.”

Brighton and Hove will be the focal point for the day of action in the South East with around 10,000 workers expected to march through the city.

While details have not yet been decided, it is expected there will be several separate marches meeting at a central location for speeches.

As well as local government workers, Unite, GMB and Unison will also be balloting their members working in the NHS. For the first time ever, the Royal College of Midwives will also ballot for action. Workers employed by contractors working for local authorities are also set to strike.

The GMB has announced binmen employed by SERCO at Mid-Sussex District Council will be balloted on proposed action.

Gary Palmer, GMB organiser, said “The offer of a 1% rise in the light of recent cost of living increase and low pay awards over the past few years have resulted in our members seeing their standard of living drop at an alarming rate. Disappointingly this has left them with no other option.”

Sue Moorman, Brighton and Hove City Council’s head of human resources and organisational development, said: “It’s too early to say exactly how services might be affected, we are planning ahead to try identify the extent of potential disruption to services and agree contingency arrangements wherever possible.”