Pensions strikes bring country to a standstill

Public sector pension strikes officially began today. The strikes, covering schools, hospitals, courts and airports, are said to be the largest for a generation.

More than 1,000 demonstrations are said to be taking place around the UK as over 2 million people walk out over the raised state pension age amongst other issues.

Unions have been in talks with the government for a number of weeks in an attempt to avoid this situation. However, they have yet to reach an agreement that all parties are satisfied with.

Speaking to the BBC, Chancellor George Osborne said; ìThe strike is not going to achieve anything, it’s not going to change anything. It is only going to make our economy weaker and potentially cost jobs.”

The governmentís decision to increase the state pension age to 67 has sparked outrage across the country. This blow adds to the frustrations that many public sector workers are experiencing as the result of a two-year pay freeze as well as plans for mass job cuts.

Age UK argues that; îAverage life expectancy must not be the only factor that is considered as at the moment the huge disparities in healthy life expectancy across the country means that the poorest socio-economic groups will be required to sacrifice proportionately more of their retirement. ì

Cabinet ministers, however, claim that the strike is ëinappropriate, untimely and irresponsible.í

The Department of Education says it expects 13% of state funded schools to be open while a staggering 58% of state schools are closed. Two universities have cancelled all classes as well as a handful of colleges.

The UK transport network has suffered little disruption, despite this being the biggest strike for 30 years. In Northern Ireland, however, no bus or train services are operating and NHS managers have insured that A&E services, as well as cancer and end of life treatment care, are operating.

However, the government estimates that around 400,000 nurses and healthcare assistants, paramedics and support staff are joining the strike. London Ambulance Service is responding to life threatening emergencies only.

Heathrow and Gatwick warned travellers of 12 hour delays following walk outs from UK Border Agency staff. However, there has only been a minor disruption so far.

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