Strikes threat to public services

MANY public services were expected to grind to a halt today as teachers and other public-sector workers went on strike over plans to cut their pensions.

In Northumberland, around 1,500 members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) were expected to walk out, forcing many schools to close.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), which represents up to 26,000 public-sector workers in the north east, was also urging its members to go on strike.

The unions are taking action to protest against government plans to increase their workers’ pension age and contributions.

Christine Carruthers, Northumberland secretary for the NUT, said: “The government is asking us to work longer, pay more and get less.

“If these plans go ahead, I would have to pay £92 a month more, and lots of people can’t afford it.

“I can’t get a pension until I’m 67, and I would get £160,000 less over a 25-year retirement.

“The way it works is that current teachers pay the pensions of retired teachers, so it’s not like gambling on the stock exchange.

“We don’t want to see children’s education harmed but the government is not taking the negotiations seriously.”

Simon Elliott, regional secretary for the PCS, added: “Contrary to popular opinion, the average pension is £6,000.

“It’s not a huge, gold-plated pension.

“The National Audit Office has said that the pension scheme is sustainable as it is,

so there is no need whatsoever for the government to renegotiate.”