Public Sector Pension Strikes: Who was affected and what does this mean for all of us?

Last week the nation was brought to a standstill as millions embarked on one of the biggest strikes for a generation in the UK.

Hospital services were slashed, schools were closed, and airports prepared for a meltdown, all because of government reforms to public sector pensions.

Unions are outraged at the government reforms, which will see the statutory retirement age increase from 65 to 67.

More than 1,000 demonstrations were reportedly taking place around the UK as over 2 million people took to the streets to demonstrate their frustrations at the government reforms.

What do the Government reforms mean?

People are living longer and the government argues that with this, the state pension age needs to increase.

For millions of Brits in their forties and early fifties, this means working a year longer before they can receive their state pension. Currently, the average age of life expectancy for men is 78.2 and 82.3 for women.

Age UK argue that the government should take more factors into consideration when assessing the state pension age.

ìAverage 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,î Age UK said.

As of 2026, the state pension will rise to 67, this is being brought forward a decade as previous plans under the last government scheduled the move for 2036. This will affect 8 million workers born between April 6th 1960 and March 5th 1961, however, anyone currently over the age of 52 will not be affected.

This move will save the Treasury an estimated £59 billion over a ten-year period.

Compare pensions with Money Expert.

There has been a mixed view of the strikes, with the Prime Minister calling strike efforts a ëdamp squibí as Brits took to the streets in their millions in what was said to have been the biggest strike for 30 years. Jeremy Clarkson also had some strong views on the strikes, calling for strikers to be ëexecuted in front of their familiesí.

Who was affected by the strikes?

There were a staggering 29 unions backing the strike, causing 850,500 public sector workers across England, Scotland and Wales to protest.

Angry NHS healthcare workers, including nurses and support staff such as paramedics, radiographers, occupational therapists and more, went on strike against the raised pension age. The government estimated that 400,00 NHS workers were on strike last week.

The London Ambulance Service (LAS) reported severe pressure on 999 services and called in police to help respond to emergency calls. The South East Coast Ambulance Service was responding to life threatening emergencies only.

Up to 11,500 hospital workers walked out across the city and there were also pickets outside the courts. According to the BBC, 54,000 appointments were cancelled and 7,000 operations were cancelled.


Much to the delight of children and the dismay of working parents, Schools were hit hard by the strikes.

Figures from the BBC say that across the UK a total of 18,342 schools were closed. That means 68% of all the schools in England, Scotland and Wales were either shut or partially closed for the day. This figure jumps to 99% of all state schools for Scotland. 86% of schools were closed in Wales and more than 50% of them were closed in Northern Ireland.

More than 2,000 schools were affected during the strikes, causing mass disruption for parents who have to take a day off or arrange childcare. Up to 75% of state run schools were affected by the strikes, a number of colleges and universities cancelled all their classes.


UK transport networks were not as badly affected as predicted, with little disruption occurring throughout the day of the strike.

London Heathrow and Gatwick warned travellers of 12-hour delays as UK Border Agency staff walked out in protest. However, there was only a minor disruption and Heathrow was reported to be relatively peaceful, with passengers passing through passport control in a matter of seconds. 200 extra staff were drafted in to help what could have been an airport nightmare. However, at times there was more staff than passengers to assist in the end.

It was not the same story in Northern Ireland where no bus or train services were operating. Some inter-island ferry services were cancelled and the Glasgow underground system was closed.

Local Council Services

Around 32% of council employees in England and Wales were not in work during the strike. This is the equivalent of around 660,000 staff, according to the Local Government Association.

Refuse collections, day-care centre and library services were all affected as councils ran reduced services. According to the Cabinet Office, just 18 out of 900 Job Centres were closed though. Community centres, museums, leisure centres, car parks and libraries were also affected.

Civil Services

Some tax inspectors, special advisors, government lawyers, crown prosecutors and diplomats also went on strike. The Cabinet reported that less than a third of civil servants went on strike.

Some court proceedings were delayed or disrupted. Met Office weather forecasters also went on strike but provided emergency cover for aviation, shipping and defense.


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