By Francesca James
Thousands of striking public sector workers attended a rally in London yesterday to send a powerful message to the government that they are prepared fight attacks on pensions and cuts in services and jobs on the biggest day of co-ordinated public sector strike for a generation.
Early indications showed that about 84% of PCS members across the UK had been out on strike yesterday in the union’s best supported day of industrial action.
According to feedback from 140 HMRC workplaces about 85% of its workforce, did not attend work, and an office in St Helens, Merseyside was closed, while 90% of PCS members in the Department for Work and Pensions were out on strike, with many jobcentres closed or services severely disrupted.
Many courts have been disrupted by strike action: only five people turned up for work at Liverpool Crown Court, meaning there were no jury trials and two high-profile trials were cancelled. Cases at City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court have been severely disrupted, only two out of five court rooms were running at Oxford combined courts, while only three out of eight courts in Reading were running. No criminal cases were heard in Bolton. Ninety per cent of civilian staff handling public calls in the Metropolitan Police took action.
An estimated thirty thousand PCS members have been on strike in Scotland, while in Wales at the DVLA in Swansea, where PCS has recruited 178 new members in the last week, 70% of workers stayed away from work. Disruption has also been caused at the British Library.
About 15,000 marchers braved the showers to join the march and rally from Lincoln’s Inn Fields to Westminster Central Hall in central London. PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka joined counterparts Sally Hunt (University and College Union), Christine Blower (National Union of Teachers), and Mary Bousted (Association of Teachers and Lecturers) at the rally.
Mark told a packed Westminster Central Hall during a rally that: "Our members have voted with their feet and supported the strike. We are in it together with public sector workers, students and pensioners defending everything we have fought for for generations.
"The best education we can give to our children is the dignity and passion shown by teachers for their profession today. "Three quarters of a million have been out today, there will be four million in October."
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