Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Union leaders warn of more strikes

Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union protest outside the High Court in London
Unite and PCS union members outside University Hospital Birmingham, Edgbaston

Union leaders have warned that strikes by public sector workers in the row over pensions will continue for the rest of the year following a day of walkouts and protests by tens of thousands of employees including police, prison officers, lecturers and civil servants.

The Government was warned that campaigns of opposition to its controversial reforms will be extended, as more than 20,000 off-duty police officers marched through central London to warn that job cuts were putting public safety at risk.

Prisons, courts, jobcentres, government offices, colleges, museums and the servicing of Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships were all hit by the walkout - the third national day of action in the last six months over pensions.

Union leaders said over 400,000 workers took some form of industrial action, but the Government questioned the number, claiming that only 100,000 civil servants had taken part in the "futile" strike. At a rally in Westminster attended by thousands of strikers, the Government was accused of lying, while union leaders pledged to continue organising strikes.

Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, said: "Today has been a fantastic success and there will be more strikes in June, at the end of the summer, the winter, next spring and on and on and on. We need to make it clear that the coalition of resistance we have with groups such as students and senior citizens is generating momentum."

Mark Serwotka, leader of the Public and Commercial Services union, said Government claims that some people would be better off after the reforms were a lie, adding that the coalition was "swimming against the tide" of public opinion over its austerity measures.

Police officers from all 43 forces across England and Wales donned black baseball caps with the words "Cuts are criminal", as they brought parts of central London to a standstill with a huge march. Police Federation chairman Paul McKeever told them: "We care very deeply about the communities that we serve. We have seen what happens when we have a Government that has given policing a very low priority."

Action by prison officers was described as unlawful by ministers, who warned they have considered court action. The Prison Officers Association (POA) said more than 80% of its members took part in protest meetings outside jails, whilst ensuring safety and security was maintained in all establishments.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said: "The dedicated majority of public sector workers are working normally today and rigorous contingency plans are ensuring that nearly all key public services remain open as usual. Just 102,244 civil servants are on strike - down from 146,000 in November and dramatically lower than union claims."

The PCS said the Government's figures were "wildly inaccurate", claiming that almost 200,000 of its members walked out, as well as thousands from Unite, the University and College Union, the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance, the Rail Maritime and Transport union (RMT), the POA and the Immigration Service Union.

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