District’s public sector workers take to streets

NAWN 1111304 WYO Strike protest. Reg Bond POA branch chairman with colleagues  from showing their support for the strike. (1111304AM)
NAWN 1111304 WYO Strike protest. Reg Bond POA branch chairman with colleagues from showing their support for the strike. (1111304AM)

Thousands of workers joined a massive national strike over public sector pensions on Wednesday.

In the Wetherby area schools were closed, along with the Leeds council-run One Stop Shop and Wetherby Fulfilling Lives centre on Sandbeck Way.

Tom Riordan, chief executive of Leeds City Council said the impact of the strike across the local authority area was as expected.

On Wednesday he said: “Our most up-to-date information suggests that around 60 per cent of our staff are not in work today.

“This includes staff in the city’s schools, 95 cent of which are closed or partially closed.

“Picket lines at council buildings have been peaceful and good natured.

“We have worked closely with the trade unions over the last week to make sure that the impact of this strike on our most vulnerable residents and service users is kept to a minimum.

“The trade unions took a very responsible position and agreed to provide a limited number of exemptions to staff in critical services based on protecting vulnerable people in life threatening situations.

“We have planned carefully for today, and fully respect the decisions of each individual member of staff as to whether they strike or come into work.I would like to acknowledge those staff that are in work today for their help in maintaining essential frontline services for the people of Leeds.”

Prison officers from Wetherby Young Offenders Institution and HMP Wealston staged a protest at the gates on Wednesday in support of the (TUC) Day of Action.

Although prison officers are not allowed to strike, a spokesman from Wetherby said: “We think it is very important to support our colleagues, especially the civil service, to highlight the issues.

“That is why we are staging this protest at the front gates.”

Peter McParlin, national chairman of the Prison Officers Association said: “The POA is fully supportive of the TUC’s Day of Action in protest over the Government’s proposals on pension reform which will force POA members to work longer, pay more and receive less.

“In real terms members will suffer a 16 per pay cut each year on the back of a two-year pay freeze and future pay restrictions from the Treasury.”

One working mum from a Wetherby office said she had been affected by the strike and had to take a day off to look after her children.

“Fortunately I had a day’s holiday left otherwise I would have had to go without pay because the schools were shut. I could not afford to do that, especially at this time of year with Christmas coming up.”

Wetherby MP Alec Shelbrooke said he thought Wednesday’s strike was disappointing.

“The strike was very disappointing with hard working parents in the private sector having to take a day off work, many without pay, because of teachers in the public sector.

“There are very few people in the private sector on as good a pension as those in the public sector. I do not think it was reasonable that people had to take a day off work without pay.”

He added: “The offer being made is still exceptional.Anyone within ten years of retirement are not going to be affected.

“Something has got to be done to make pensions sustainable.”

Chris Head, North Yorkshire County Secretary of teaching union NASUWT, said yesterday: “Teachers and other public sector workers didn’t want to inconvenience the public yesterday, it is not a selfish act but is about securing justice for all workers and ensuring that we continue to have great public services. Yesterday’s strike was not the fault of ordinary workers, it is the fault of a government that has played fast and loose with the rights and entitlements of ordinary workers.

“Indeed the coalition government has spent eight months delaying and game playing and now wants to resolve the problem in less than eight weeks, however, there is still no offer on the table for teachers.”