Striking unions vow to battle on against pensions shake-up
Unions have declared their strike action against the Government’s pension plans a “success” and vowed to continue the battle.
Members of Nipsa, Unite, the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) and the University and College Union (UCU) took part in the 24-hour industrial action yesterday.
The unions object to plans to increase the retirement age for public sector workers to 68.
The Government says present pension schemes are unaffordable because people live longer.
Public sector workers picketed Stormont, the Ulster Hospital and Grosvenor House in Belfast as well as other centres, and attended rallies in Belfast and Londonderry.
Health trusts reported minimal disruption to health and social services.
Speaking after the public rally, Nipsa general secretary Brian Campfield said union members had shown their “determination to protect their hard-fought entitlement to decent pensions”.
“Nipsa, in conjunction with other trade unions, both public and private sector, is determined to protect the interests of ordinary people against the onslaught from the coalition Government on their pay, terms and conditions, job security and the vicious assault on the welfare state,” he said.
Mr Campfield was adamant local politicians needed to protect the interests of people.
“The public were also clear in expressing to us their view that Northern Ireland’s politicians needed to do more to protect the interests of all Northern Ireland’s citizens,” he said.
The presence on the picket lines had decreased in comparison to the last strike action in November last year, when thousands of people came out of work to protest against pension cuts.
There were differences in opinion on the level of support the protests received. One observer who did not wish to be named said: “These protests are not being hailed as a great success, the damage has already been done with the pension cuts.”
Members of Nipsa at the Child Maintenance Enforcement Division were out in force for the strike.
Spokesman Tony McLeish said: “I feel with the current state of affairs and austerity measures the Government are taking, we had to come out in force and show we are not prepared to take these cuts.
“The vast majority of workers are behind the union; this will be shown by the workers that stayed off.
“There is a misconception the strike is to do with pension cuts, it is about the need for reform as well,” he added.