Services suffer in walkout over pensions

HUNDREDS of public sector workers in North Kirklees defied the national pensions strike on Wednesday.
Schools including Birstall’s St Peter’s Primary, Ravensthorpe Infant and Nursery and Crowlees Juniors in Mirfield were partially open.
Job centres and Dewsbury’s magistrates’ court offered a reduced service while driving tests at the Heckmondwike centre ran as normal.
Ambulances ran at a reduced level from 6am to 6pm and patient transport was cut back, though 999 calls were answered as normal.
Many other services, including town halls, libraries, bin collections, Kirklees College and various schools were either shut or cancelled. 
Pickets were out at Dewsbury District Hospital, Dewsbury Police Station and the fire headquarters at Birkenshaw, among others.
Most strikers joined a Trades Union Congressorganised rally in Huddersfield’s St George’s Square, which attracted about 2,000 demonstrators.
But the disruption was not total, while many, such as court support staff, merely refused to cross picket lines rather than actively protest.
The court still heard bail and custody hearings despite what union activists claimed was the biggest public strike in more than 30 years.
The action was over changes to pensions in which staff will pay more in and work for longer but get less back after a review by exLabour minister Lord Hutton.
Chris Head, of teaching union NASWT, said: “It’s time to tell the truth about public sector pensions: They’re not gold plated.
“The average public sector pension is less than £5,000 and the average teacher’s pension is less than £10,000.
“For every £1 spent on public sector pensions, £2.50 is spent on tax relief for pensions of the top one per  cent of the super rich in the private sector.”
Striking ambulance patient transport worker Dave Buckley said: “It's a pension you’ve got to be in, but they are going to alter the contract.”
Probation officer Penny Lawrence said: “If these changes go through I’ll have to work until I’m 68. But many in the private sector earn more than me.”
Kirklees Unison branch secretary Paul Holmes added: “This is an assault on our standard of living. Don’t think this is a oneday strike, because it isn’t.”
Council leader Mehboob Khan (Lab) spoke in favour of the strike at the rally while Tory opposition leader Coun Robert Light was against.
Coun Khan told demonstrators: "We have to keep this fight going. Let's carry on, comrades, until we have won the fight for fair pensions."
Coun Light (Birstall and Birkenshaw) said: “This actually isn't about pensions at all. It’s trade unions trying to bring the Government down.
“I also want the law on strike ballots changed so that it runs as a percentage of the overall membership, not votes cast.
“The vast majority of union members didn't even vote in the strike ballot, yet the country ends up being held to ransom.”

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