30 Jun 2011

LIVE BLOG: 30 June pension strikes

Hundreds of thousands of teachers and civil servants walkout in a 24 hour strike in a bitter row over pension reform. Join the Channel 4 News live blog for the latest news and have your say.

17.00: Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union said 85 per cent of his members had been on strike today. The Government insists the industrial action had “minimal impact” on the public.

16.00: Unions said up to 20,000 people took part in the march through central London on Thursday which passed Downing Street and Parliament before a series of speakers lined up to warn against controversial pension reform.

Union officials and teachers criticised the Government, while Labour leader Ed Miliband was also attacked for failing to support the strike, some calling him a “disgrace”.

15.15: Metropolitan Police says there have been 24 arrests so far during the strike action and rally in central London.

15.00: According to the latest figures more than 11,000 schools in England were affected by today’s strike, according to the latest figures from the Department for Education.

In total, 5,679 local authority run schools were shut, and another 4,999 were partially closed. A further 201 academies and city technology colleges were also closed, with 235 partially open.

14.45: UK Border Agency says contingency plans have ensured that the border remains secure and that the impact on travellers has been relatively limited. “However shifts at ports change throughout the day, so we are not being complacent,” a spokesman said.


Pension Strikes

14.30: School closures: According to figures from the Department for Education, around 4,640 local authority schools were expected to be closed, with 3,888 partially open and 4,115 open.

Among academies, 223 are expected to be fully open, 204 partially open and 148 closed.

A war or words begins as unions and the Government clash over the size of the walkout. The Government queries claims it is the PSC union’s “best supported strike”.

14.10: Scotland Yard was forced to pull officers off the beat today to cover for nine in 10 emergency call handlers who joined the public sector strikes.

Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson told a Metropolitan Police Authority meeting that 90 per cent of 999 call handlers did not turn up to work.

Scotland Yard said there had been “some impact” on times taken to answer emergency calls, but “there have been no critical issues and the situation is being kept under continual review”.

13.45: Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, says the turnout had been low for today’s support.

“What today has shown is that the vast majority of hard working public sector employees do not support today’s premature strike and have come into work today; I want to thank them all for coming in, ignoring the pickets and putting the public first,” he said adding he was “not at all surprised by the very low turnout for today’s action”.

13.00: David Cameron’s official spokesman described the strike as “unnecessary and premature”.

“People are getting caught up in a semantic debate,” he said.

“There is this debate that is raging about unaffordable versus untenable. The fact of the matter is this was looked into very thoroughly by Hutton and he concluded that we needed to reform public sector pensions.”

Asked if striking unions would be excluded from future talks, he said: “We want to have a constructive dialogue. We will continue to approach these discussions in that way.”

12.30: Protesters in Liverpool set off on a march (pictured below) against the changes to pension reform. It was just one of several marches happening across the UK, including a mass rally in London.

12.00: The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) claimed Thursday’s strike was the “best-supported strike” they have ever had, but the Government questioned the numbers. A Cabinet Office spokesperson told Channel 4 News “less than half PCS members are taking part”.

11.30: Labour leader Ed Miliband tweets that the strike is “wrong”.

“These strikes are wrong at a time when negotiations are going on. People have been let down by both sides – the Govt has acted recklessly.”

11.15: Amid warnings of delays due to passport control staff on strike, Heathrow airport says there are currently no delays at immigration.

11.00: Education Secretary Michael Gove says he is “disappointed” at strike actions, but says he remains confident that the pension dispute can be resolved.

“I understand that there are really strong feelings about pensions and we absolutely want to ensure that everyone in the public, especially teachers, have decent pensions. But I just don’t think it’s a good idea to have gone out on strike today,” he said.

“We’re still in negotiations and the people who really lose out as a result of today’s strike are children who are not in school enjoying their lessons, and in particular hard-working parents, who have been put to quite a lot of inconvenience as a result of this action.”

09.00: Hundreds of thousands of teachers, lecturers, civil servants and other workers are on strike in a bitter row with the Government over pensions reform.

The scale of the strike is becoming clear, with thousands of schools, jobcentres, tax offices and courts set to be closed or disrupted. There will also be picket lines around Government departments, and driving tests will be cancelled.

Four unions are taking part in the walkout, with hundreds of thousands of teaching staff expected to walkout for 24 hours. An estimated 85 per cent of schools in England and Wales will partially or completely close.