By Matthew Abbott
Thousands of workers took to the streets of Manchester this week in support of public sector strikes against the government’s pension reforms in the biggest teachers’ strike in a generation.
Over 550 schools were closed on Thursday in Greater Manchester leaving just one in four schools open, forcing many parens to stay at home to care for their children.
Members of the National Union of Teachers and the Associaion of Teachers and Lecturers held pickets outside schools while over 2,000 marched through the city centre.
Beginning at All Saints Park on Oxford Road, the march finished with a rally in Castlefield Arena where trade unionists outlined their opposition to the Hutton Report.
Phil Parker, 39, a teacher from Earlam and Cadishead Community High School in Salford, said: “We are striking today because we simply cannot afford to pay anymore, work any more or give anymore.
“I got into teaching knowing that the reward for all the hard work teaching difficult kids would be a good deal when I retired.”
Adding: “If you take that incentive away, it’s the kids that hurt the most.”
Two hundred members of the Fire Brigade Union (FBU) and students from all over Manchester came to show their support for the industrial action.
Jacob Baldon, an A-level student in Halifax and self-proclaimed Black Anarchist, said: “We are here to support those teachers that supported us in Parliament Square during the student protests last year.”
While there were no arrests, there were several minor scuffles with police as youths, like Jacob, wearing masks were stopped and searched.
CONFRONTATION: A police ‘evidence gatherer’ films a self-proclaimed black anarchist
Police claimed stop and search powers under secion 60 of the Criminal Public Order Act in an effort to avoid a repetition of the Millbank riots last November.
Manchester kids unfurled a huge bandage with the words, ‘Education cuts never heal’ written in mock blood as trade union leaders spoke to the crowd in the Castlefield Arena.
Sue Bond from the Public and Commercial Services Union said: “This is the real big society, not Cameron’s – ours, all of us together fighting today.”
Barry Lovejoy of the University and College Union (UCU) said: “Employment in the public sector dropped by 33,000 this quarter while the average FTSE 500 director’s salary rose by 55%.
“This isn’t a great pension reform. It’s a great pension robbery.”
Ed Miliband, speaking at the Local Government Association’s (LGA) annual conference in Birmingham said: “I believe this action is wrong.
“Negotiations are ongoing, so it is a mistake to go on strike because of the effect on people who rey upon those services.”
Mr Miliband’s comments sparked an angry response from ATL leader Mary Bousted who told a rally in London that he “should be ashamed of himself”.
“It’s a disgrace,” she added.
PROTEST: Thousands turned out in support of public sector strikes
Danny Alexander MP, Chief Secretary to the Treasury said: “The cost of public service pensions has risen dramatically in recent years.
“We have to have reform to make sure pensions are fair, sustainable and affordable in the coming years.”
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