Staff on strike over pensions

Striking workers outside of Pontefract Hospital
Striking workers outside of Pontefract Hospital
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PLACARD-waving public service workers formed picket lines across the Five Towns over proposed changes to their pensions.

Members of trade unions – including Unison, the National Union of Teachers (NUT), the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) – took part in what they believe was the biggest strike in the district since the 1980s.

Teachers, hospital workers and Wakefield Council staff walked out on Wednesday over what they claim are government plans to “work longer, get less and pay more”.

Staff at Pontefract Hospital were among those who joined the walk out, forming picket lines from 5.30am.

Melanie Jones, chairman of the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust Union branch said: “We have rights and the government has taken advantage of the goodwill of nurses for too long.”

The strike caused disruption at schools, community centres, council facilities and libraries. Of the 131 maintained schools in the district, only four were fully open and eight partially open – with the remaining 118 closed. In the Five Towns, the only schools partially open were Castleford’s Redhill Junior School and Featherstone Technology College.

Sally Kincaid, NUT divisional secretary, said “This strike is solid, it shows how angry public sector workers are about the government proposals to make us work longer, get less and pay more.

“This is a tax on public sector workers and any extra money raised will go straight to the Treasury. We encouraged people to take to the streets on Wednesday to show how serious we are to not only to defend our pensions but also fight for decent pensions for workers in the private sector too.”

All of the district’s libraries, museums and castles – including Pontefract Castle – were closed, as well as Castleford and Wakefield markets.

All swimming pools, sports centres, leisure centres, and council-run golf courses will be closed.

Bill Adams, Yorkshire TUC regional secretary, said: “It is completely unjust to make public sector workers pay an unfair contribution to reducing a deficit which they did nothing to cause, and asking people to pay more in contributions will further depress the economy and continue the downward spiral of economic decline”.