Public sector strikes as up to 400,000 walk out
Union leaders have said that up to 400,000 public sector workers will be involved in a range of strikes and demonstrations, after ministers made it clear in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech that they would be going ahead with controversial reforms.
Among the workers are prison officers, policemen, lecturers and border control staff. This will be the third one-day strike by public sector unions in 12 months and will see strikes by the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), the Unite union, teachers and lecturers from the University and College union, Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA) and support staff at the RMT union.
Around 80% of Britain’s prisons have seen strikes so far, with demonstrations by workers being held outside prison gates and prisoners being put on lock-down. At the Old Bailey, a jury was sent home after two defendants weren’t present in court, as there are not enough prison officers to take them to and from hearings.
Although prison officers are banned from striking by law, they have taken action after the government announced plans to raise the retirement age to 68, with union leaders saying that 68-year-olds cannot reasonably be expected to manage dangerous and potentially violent offenders.
It was made illegal for prison officers to strike in 1994 and so the government is expected to gain an injunction, forcing all workers to return to their posts.
Around 20,000 police officers are also expected to march in the capital today and 16,000 officers will be wearing black caps to denote the number of cuts expected in the force in the coming years.
Tens of thousands of lecturers from over 75 universities are expected to walk out over changes to their pension schemes, which will now see them paying up to £500 a year more in pension contributions – a 50% rise.
The strikes are being widely criticised by the government. Immigration minister Damian Green said: “This strike is completely unnecessary and we believe the public will find it unacceptable”, while one of the lead negotiators on pension reforms, Francis Maude, denounced the strikes as “disappointing”. He said: “Pension talks will not be reopened and nothing further will be achieved through strike action.”