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Saturday, 25 October 2014

Pensions strike action

HUNDREDS of public sector workers hit the streets of Barrow to give the government a message: Don’t cut our pensions.

More than 300 people from across South Cumbria, armed with vuvuzelas and whistles, held a rally yesterday against plans to change their pensions.

A deafening “minute of noise” was held at Barrow Town Hall at 1pm by the protesters, who also picketed major workplaces around the town.

And union officials have warned that if the government doesn’t revise its plans to change their pensions, then further industrial action will be held.

In the spring, the coalition government revealed the proposals that will see public sector workers contributing more to their pensions while working longer and seeing the amount they receive reduced.

More than two million people took part in the action throughout the country, with 11 unions joining in on the largest incident of industrial action since the 1980s. Union leaders have argued public sector pensions are not “gold-plated”, with the average annual pension standing at £4,200 for a male public sector worker and £2,800 for a female.

In Barrow, representatives from Unison, Unite, the GMB, the National Union of Teachers, the Public and Commercial Services Union and the National Association of Probation Officers were all out in force at the rally.

Alec Proffitt, Barrow branch secretary of Unison, worked to organise the rally and said he was delighted with the turnout.

He said: “It’s brilliant to see so many people out here. It just shows what people are willing to do when the chips are down, to come and support their trade unions and the services that they supply. I don’t think the government really understood the depth of anger right across the board. We’re not just talking about one area – say local government or the NHS – but people from right across many different professions.”

Bob Pointer, secretary of Barrow Trades Council, said people needed to stand up against the government’s proposals.

He said: “It’s great to see so many people out standing up for themselves. If the government go ahead with these proposals, it will not only hit the public sector, but it will have a knock-on effect in the private sector.

“This government will then begin attacking the health system and other public services.”

Alongside the groups that were involved in the industrial action, the rally also attracted other political groups and unions.

Fire Brigades Union representative, Councillor Tony Callister, said: “The FBU is here to support the day of action under the banner of the Trades Union Congress.

“However, we haven’t come out in strike as we are due to enter negotiations with the government in the new year.

“If these negotiations don’t come to fruition, we will be following the same route that these unions have taken today.”

Several local politicians also lent their support, including Barrow mayor Councillor John Murphy.

Cllr Murphy said: “I am here to support the ordinary working man whose rights are being attacked by the current government.”

Prior to the rally, workers across the town held picket lines at several places of work, including Furness General Hospital and at Barrow Library.

Paramedics and other ambulance workers picketed at Barrow Ambulance Station for 24 hours.

Consequently, only one ambulance was available to go out to emergency calls in Barrow. Normally, two ambulances would be on duty.

Staff at the picket line said they had not taken the decision lightly to join in on the strike action.

Unison member Bob Moresby said: “We need to spread the message that this affects us as well as other workers. We knew we could go on strike but that they would still be able to cover emergencies.”

Ambulance technician Mags Ogden said: “I have worked here for 22 years and think these proposals are appalling. We get abused and assaulted at work and should be getting decent pensions for the job we do.

“People don’t realise that there’s only two ambulances that run in Barrow, 24 hours a day.”

In the run-up to the “minute of noise”, speeches were given by members of several unions including Unite and Unison.

More than 200 schools across the county were shut because of the action, with teachers from across Furness waving placards at the event.

NUT assistant secretary for Cumbria Chris Brooksbank said: “I think teachers are quite rightly upset at what seems to be happening, which is that government is making blanket decisions without examining the facts.

“The teachers’ pension scheme was examined in 2007 and found to be affordable. The government should have carried out another review before making any proposals.”

Have your say

Do these moaning teachers read the newspapers? 60 people have lost their jobs at Co-op travel and these idiots are on about their pensions that WE (the general public) pay for. Try working for minimum wage, no pension, no sick pay and minimum holidays AND try paying a mortgage with that. I do not begrudge the emergency services (fire, police, NHS or Army) but I am sick to death of pen pushers and teachers complaining constantly. I have just taken on a second job cleaning in order to pay my bills, life is hard (for some) at the moment! Oh just in case you are wondering…I have a degree, I’m 32 and I’ve never claimed a benefit in my life. Shame of you.

Posted by Sarah on 2 December 2011 at 11:01

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