The UK is experiencing some of its worst disruption to services in decades as more than 2 million public sector workers stage a nationwide strike, closing schools and bringing councils and hospitals to a virtual standstill.
More than twenty unions are supporting the Wednesday 30 November protest over cuts to public sector pensions.
Department for Education figures suggest more than half (58%) of England’s 21,700 state schools are closed, with another 13% partly shut. In Scotland, 30 of the 2,700 council-run schools are believed to be open, says local authority body Cosla, while in Wales 80% of schools are shut. In Northern Ireland, three of the five education library boards have reported that over 50% of 1,200 schools are closed.
The government claim that the protest is a “damp squib” and that “those reforms are absolutely essential” and the strikes are “irresponsible, inappropriate and untimely”.
The right wing commentariat go further, calling the protesters “selfish and weak” and “a symptom of a culture in parts of the educational establishment that is quick to complain and slow to find solutions.”
On the other side, commenters say that “This government cancelled the tax on bankers’ bonuses. Instead it has brought in a nurses’, teachers’ and lollipop ladies’ tax. This is what the increase in pension contributions – around £1,000 a year for a nurse – really means. It is not paying for pensions but going straight to the Treasury to fill the hole left by the bonus tax.” and The 3.2% contributions hike is a tax on a workforce whose living standards have already been heavily squeezed by repeated pay freezes. Pensions aren’t a perk, but deferred pay. Protecting pay and conditions is what unions are for.
Channel 4 fact Check weighs in on whether the costs of public sector pensions are going up (answer: no) and the claim of Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury,: that the new deal will mean better pensions for many low and middle income earners. (answer: not really)