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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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News: Government brands public sector pensions strike as “futile”


Hundreds of thousands of public sector workers took part in demonstrations and 24-hour strike action today, staging a protest over pension changes that the Cabinet Office minister has branded “futile”.

The walk-out follows last November’s nationwide stoppage by more than one-and-a-half million public servants, but was fuelled by statements in the Queen’s Speech yesterday confirming that the controversial reforms were still due to go ahead, according to unions.
In a surprise move, prison officers also joined the industrial action, which is believed to have affected 80% of prisons in England, Wales and Scotland, leaving inmates on lockdown with only minimum cover.
The walk-out – the first in five years and only the second ever – was announced at the last minute in order to prevent the government from obtaining an injunction to prevent it from going ahead.
Industrial action by prison officers is banned under section 127 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. As a result, the Prison Officers Association instructed its members to return to work by mid-afternoon after being threatened with an injunction by the Ministry of Justice.
Other public servants taking part in the 24-hour strike, however, included NHS workers, border force staff, civil servants and lecturers.
The Metropolitan Police also said that about 32,000 police officers participated in a protest march against 20% budget cuts and proposals for the most sweeping changes to their pay, pensions and conditions in 30 years.
They too are banned from taking strike action or joining a union under the Police Act 1996. But about half of the officers donned black caps during their march in honour of each colleague that is expected to lose their job as a result of the cuts.
But Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude branded the strike as “futile” and attested that only 100,000 people took part as opposed to the 400,000 proclaimed by the unions.
“It is very disappointing that a handful of unions insist on carrying on with futile strike action, which will benefit no one. We would urge those union leaders to reconsider their position. Pension talks will not be reopened and nothing further will be achieved through strike action,” he said.
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Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

Read more from Cath Everett

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