PUBLIC services across Wigan have been hit today by the huge national strike.
Hundreds of staff walked out this morning closing schools and colleges across the borough and affecting everything from driving tests and magistrates courts hearings to job centre placement and benefit payments.
Unions including the Public and Commercial Services (PCS), National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) claimed today that more than 1,500 Wigan members joined the action, said to be the biggest in more than 80 years.
There were half a dozen picket lines across Wigan and strikers will gather for a rally in the Market place at 11.00am today to hear a range of speakers set to condemn the Coalition Government’s plans.
It is estimated - but yet to be confirmed - that 49 schools in Wigan have been closed (or partially closed) by the action, with 20 remaining open.
There are no reports in Wigan of parents answering Education Secretary Michael Gove’s call to strike-break and take the place of teachers in the class rooms for the day.
Chairman of Wigan PCS branch Chris Holmes said this morning that not only were the cuts to public service pensions “unnecessary,” they were deliberately provacative and had been calculated by the Government to deliberately stoke up a confrontation with civil servants for political reasons.
Divisional secretary of Wigan NUT Max Atkins said that teachers had not taken the action lightly, but the “overwhleming” support for action by NUT members demonstrated that teacheers feel what is happening to their pensions is wrong.
He said: “The Government has not backed down on its plan to announce its decision on an increase to pension contributions once talks with the TUC close.
“That is why we are taking action now to influence this decision, rather than just protesting against its imposition afterwards.”
Minister for the cabinet office Francis Maude said: “The Coalition is committed to continuing these important talks around pension reform and both sides have a responsibility to see them through.”
He claimed the union’s ballots which approved today’s strikes were not representative because of a “low turnout.”Josh