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The News Line: News Hundreds of thousands strike to defend pensions
Unite members rallied at St Thomas’ Hospital before marching to the meeting of the striking unions at Central Halls, Westminster
ACROSS the UK, hundreds of thousands of public sector workers were on strike yesterday against government plans to make them work longer and pay more for smaller pensions.

At the Welsh assembly, Cardiff, all business was suspended and Labour and Plaid Cymru Assembly Members did not cross the picket lines.

All national museums in Wales were closed.

At Manchester Crown Court 95% of staff were on strike and no trials took place.

At the Metropolitan Police contact centre in Bow, London, only 10 of 60 civilian workers crossed the picket line.

Workers at the GCHQ security centre in Cheltenham, banned by law from striking, took collections for the PCS hardship fund.

The youth court in Liverpool was closed by strike action.

The picket line at Eastbourne jobcentre included employees of G4S on Department for Work and Pensions contracts striking over their own terms and conditions.

There was a picket line outside the jobcentre in prime minister David Cameron’s Witney constituency, Oxfordshire.

Prison officers held protest meetings at jails across Britain this morning against government plans to link their pension age to the state pension age.

The Prison Officers’ Association (POA) is the second biggest civil service union – after PCS.

There was a lively picket at Lewisham college at the Deptford campus and lecturers and staff from the UCU union had placards. Cars hooted their horns in support as they passed.

Fred Behardien, the UCU rep for Lewisham college Deptford branch, told News Line: ‘This is not just about pensions but also about cuts, austerity, the yearly cull of staff and changes in our contracts.
‘The employers claim that the cuts affecting education means that they are making redundancies every year.’

At the Lewisham Way campus there was also a picket.

Mel Saunders, a lecturer at Lewisham college, said: ‘The issues are being clouded by the government.

‘They are stealing our money to pay for their quantitative easing (printing of money).

Up to 500 Unite and GMBhealth workers, plus PCS and NUT members, gathered outside St Thomas’ hospital to march to the midday rally at Central Hall.

Outside King’s College Hospital, receptionist Donna Caster said: ‘Working until you are 68 is not on. You cannot do nursing at that age, it is not fair on the staff and it is not fair on the patients.

Jane Smith, from King’s College, said: ‘I don’t think we should be privatising anything. It’s going against everything that we have gained in Britain.

‘I think this government is rubbish. Two little boys going around holding hands. They don’t know what it is like to be poor or to struggle’.

Norman Connelly, an electrician who joined the picket outside King’s college at 8am in the morning, said: ‘I think it is my duty to support these workers fighting against the cuts and the austerity that they want to impose on us. Pensions is just one issue, there should be no cuts, full stop.

‘A lot of people are working today but they want to know how they can become involved, and I came down to report back.

‘I think the unions, the way they are sectioned out and divided, is holding us back. They would all come out together. There should be a general strike and I don’t think we should waste time on ballots.

‘It is not just the NHS workers, everyone across the board should be coming out.’

Shop Stewards from King’s College, who are employed by the privateer Medirest were also on the picket lines.

Tony Anthropus, Unite joint branch secretary, said: ‘We don’t know why Unite hasn’t balloted members who are employed by Medirest and other privateers to come out as well as those who still have NHS contracts.

‘Our members were hived off to the private sector, but we are still NHS workers and members of the unions.’

Nick Jones, from Maudsley Hospital and a GMB member, said: ‘The GMB is supporting the fight against what this government is doing, forcing us to work longer hours and cutting our pensions.

‘We need cross union support, Unite, GMB, Unison should all get together because it is a common cause across all the unions.

‘There has to be a collective dialogue rather than monologues, and action for the purpose of change.
‘It’s the people at national level in the unions that have to get to grips with this government, and if the government won’t change then the unions should create conditions for government change.’

Ray Thompson, Unite steward for electricians, said: ‘We are defending our pensions. The government wants to tear up our working conditions and pay, for a problem that is not of our making. Why should we be punished for the mistakes made by the bankers. This is a rich people’s government.

‘We are from the engineering department and in reality we have had what amounts to a 16% pay cut over the years. As well as our pensions, we have suffered a pay freeze.’

Rowan Taylor, a young engineer, said: ‘It is important that the top men in the unions. start backing us.’
 
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