Strike action closes 44 schools and some public services

Staff at schools, council services, the court service, and Queens Hospital are on strike today (Wednesday, November 30) over changes to pensions schemes.

Workers face increased pension contributions, waiting longer to retire and receiving worse pensions, according to union leaders.

Forty-four schools and colleges shut in the borough as teachers and staff were on strike, while a handful remained partially open for Year 11 pupils.

At Queen’s Hospital, Romford, staff are expected to hold a protest at lunch time.

Also on strike were tax office workers at Queen’s Moat House, in Romford, and Job Centre workers at both Romford and Hornchurch who are part of the PCS civil service union.

Ron Shipton, branch secretary for Havering for the union, was also against proposed changes to pensions and pay.

He said: “I am 52-years-old and I have been in the job since I left school. I have been paying into a fair pension, but now I am expected to pay more, work longer and get less when I retire.”

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Another public sector union Unison, which has members who work for local councils, the NHS, schools and the civil service had members who went to the march in central London.

Marshajane Thompson, from the Havering branch of Unison, said: “No one wanted to go on strike and lose a day’s pay, but this attack on our pension is one we cannot swallow.

“This Government wants to make us work longer and pay more to get less when we retire and – if they get away with it – we believe that they could destroy our pension funds all together.”

Jason Killens, deputy director of operations for London Ambulance Service, said the strike was putting the service under pressure and they were urging people to only dial 999 for an ambulance if it was a genuine emergency.

He added: “In the first few hours of action, around half of our staff were either working normally or providing emergency cover as agreed with the unions.

“We are prioritising our response so that our most seriously ill and injured patients get help quickly, but some people, who are not in a life-threatening condition, are having to wait longer than normal for an ambulance response.”