Union leaders have warned that strikes by public sector workers in the row over pensions will continue for the rest of the year following a day of walkouts and protests by tens of thousands of employees.
More than 30,000 police officers – including hundreds from Yorkshire – marched through London against 20 per cent budget cuts they claim will cost 16,000 frontline jobs, while 400,000 public sector workers launched a 24-hour UK-wide strike in a dispute over pension changes.
Prisons, courts, jobcentres, government offices, colleges, museums and the servicing of Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships were all hit by the walkout – the third national day of action in the last six months over pensions – with pickets on duty across the region.
The police were all on leave as it is illegal for them to strike – a situation the West Yorkshire Police federation said the Government was abusing.
Yvette Cooper, Shadow Home Secretary and MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, said the Government’s reforms were fragmented and “undermining morale”.
“It’s undermining their work that police officers do,” she said. “Particularly they are getting rid of so many officers at a time when you’ve got real pressures, and crime in areas across the country, personal crime is rising by around 10 per cent and to take away officers at a time like that is a huge mistake.”
Unions claimed their members face being “robbed” and will have to pay more and work longer for lower pensions, but the government says current pension schemes are unfair – and unaffordable because people are living longer.
Ministers said walkouts by prison service staff in England and Wales were potentially unlawful.
Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, told a rally in Westminster: “Today has been a fantastic success and there will be more strikes in June, at the end of the summer, the winter, next spring and on and on and on. We need to make it clear that the coalition of resistance we have with groups such as students and senior citizens is generating momentum.”
Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude claimed only 150,000 workers had taken strike action.
“It is very disappointing that a handful of unions insist on carrying on with futile strike action which will benefit no one,” he said. “Pension talks will not be reopened and nothing further will be achieved through strike action.”
The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) said 200,000 of its members had walked out.
Recorded messages on HM Revenue and Customs phones advised calling back another day while government offices and jobcentres were reported closed.
Contingency plans meant there were no delays at airports from the strike, the Government said.
Ministers accused of abusing police strike law: Page 4.