Public sector strike: Manchester will grind to halt as city faces ‘biggest protest since 1926 General Strike’

Thousands of people in Greater Manchester face disruption tomorrow as public sector strikes hit the region with workers protesting against ‘vicious’ government cuts.

The national day of industrial action, which union leaders claim could be the biggest walk out since the 1926 General Strike, follows months of disputes between the public sector and the government over working conditions and pay.

The North West Trades Union Congress (NWTUC) are predicting more than 100,000 public sector workers will strike tomorrow.

Schools will be affected by the one-day walkout as teaching unions protest against the ‘unsustainable’ workload and unresolved rows over pay and pensions.

Support staff in schools, including dinner ladies and cleaners, will also join the walkout and a number of schools are expected to close completely.

National Union of Teachers (NUT) spokesman John Morgan told MM: “We’ve had a great take up from parents. 

“We really believe these changes impact not only teachers but the whole of the education system.”

Education Secretary Michael Gove has been criticised by the union for his support of free schools which they argue are a threat to education standards because they can employ unqualified teachers.

Trade unions including Unison, Unite, GMB and the Fire Brigades Union will join NUT having agreed to take industrial action following a ballot.

Pat McDonagh, Manchester Branch Chair for UNISON, said: “The havoc this government are wreaking across local government, particularly in the North, is nothing short of vandalism.

“We don’t strike lightly. Our members are dedicated to their work, to helping people and communities in Manchester – you have to be given the low pay.”

“It’s obvious that the government is not listening – all they will heed is powerful action. 

“We know that we have the support of many people in saying ‘enough’ to this arrogant and incompetent government.”

‘The Big Strike’ in Manchester will rally together at 12:30pm in Piccadilly Gardens for speakers and a show of solidarity.

A North West TUC spokesman explained that the purpose of the strike was to make people in Whitehall sit up and take notice.

He said: “The people of Manchester know all too well the impact a reduction of services has.

“We hope this strike action will make government and ministers take notice. We believe these people should be heard. 

“The public are really on-side with that message – the staff should be protected. Cuts will only have a damaging impact in the wider Manchester area.”

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is joining tomorrow’s strikes following overwhelming support from their members, before a further eight consecutive days of strikes later this month.

They are challenging government proposals to extend their retirement age to 60 and drastically increase their pension contributions, one of the highest in the public sector.

FBU Manchester Secretary Gary Keary expressed frustration at three years of ‘fruitless’ negotiation with the government and revealed that 350 FBU members will be taking part in strike action tomorrow.

He said: “Nobody wants 60-year-old firefighters coming to rescue them, it’s ludicrous.

“We would ask the people of Greater Manchester to support their fire-fighters; we are not only fighting for our futures but also that of the fire service.

“The service being provided during strike times is far below the usual level protection offered by professional fire-fighters.”

The FBU have launched a legal challenge against the government saying the current proposals reducing firefighters pensions by almost 50% at age 55 is unlawful and amounts to age discrimination.

The Green Party also pledged their support for the strike and called on the Government to adopt the living wage.

Leader Natalie Bennett said: “We cannot continue to see soaring poverty and dependence on food banks in Britain; we need to make the minimum wage a living wage, and ensure local government employees have a chance of decent progression beyond that.”

North West Green Party Representative Laura Bannister confirmed she will stand alongside union leaders at the protest in the city centre.

“In the North West, members will be visiting and taking part in picket lines and supporting the mass rally in Manchester,” she said.

“We are also sending letters of solidarity to regional trade union branches on behalf of the regional party.“

Oldham council has promised to minimise the impact of the strike on residents, assuring them that vital ‘life and limb’ services such as home and social care visits will continue as usual.

Bin collections will not take place in Oldham tomorrow, but council bosses have promised that all excess refuse will be taken away on the following collection day.

Leisure centres and parks will remain open but most libraries apart from Oldham library will be shut for the day. The Oldham contact centre will be open for enquiries all day.

Salford council also announced contingency arrangements for the city’s most vulnerable residents but a spokesman was unable to confirm the full extent of the impact the industrial action will have on the city.

Parents are advised to check with schools about planned closures and with individual councils about operating services.

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