‘Tens of thousands’ to strike in Manchester tomorrow

By Joseph Fitzpatrick

Tens of thousands of Manchester public sector workers will down tools tomorrow, in strike action which is set to cause mass disruption across the city.

Non-emergency NHS services are expected to be cancelled for the day and most of the cities schools will be closed while bin collections, libraries, airport immigration and street cleaning services are also in jeopardy.

Twenty-three trade unions are taking part in the strike in protest of the government’s proposal that public sector workers contribute an added 3.2 per cent into their pension schemes to help pay for the £1.1trillion pensions deficit.

Despite secondary school heads earning on average £74,000 with a pension of up to £37,000 annually, The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) also plans to take part in the strikes, the first time the union has taken industrial action in its 114-year history.

Secretary of Manchester’s Trade Union Councils, Geoff Brown, predicted that ‘tens of thousands’ of people would refuse to work across Manchester as part of a national strike force numbering up to three million on Wednesday.

He said: “It’s a strike. We are trying to show our determination, what we’re aiming to show is our strength and our solidarity.”

Mr Brown believes the determination of teachers is stronger after the 30 June strike earlier this year: “We’re talking here about the future generations,” he added. “The question is will the people who are still at school and university, will they be expected to work to 68, or 70, or over 70 when they retire.

“There is a huge amount at stake here particularly for the young who are really the one who are going to suffer the most if this government’s plans are put into practice.

“I’m confident that we’re going to have a really successful day and at that point the government has got a choice, when you’re faced with several million people you can either decide to talk to them or you can decide not to, we’ll have to wait and see.”

Over the last decade public sector pensions have increased to £32billion in 2008-09, with nine in 10 workers receiving employment contributions to their pensions in comparison to one in three private sector employees leading them to being dubbed gold plated.

Stephen Marciniak, General Secretary for the National Union of Teacher’s Manchester office, however denied that this was the case.

He said: “Let’s not use the phrase gold plated let’s use the phrase ‘deferred payment’.

“For three years now the public sector has taken a pay freeze, there’s been no pay rises and even before that pay rises were in line with inflation so the public sector has taken a hit for a long time.

“My message to people who say they are gold plated is they are not, the average pension for a teacher is £10,000 a year, these are not really gold plated.

“All the way through this we believe that this is affordable and by adding three per cent on payments is essentially adding another tax.

“What we’re looking for in all this is that the government will negotiate in good faith.”

Alice Marshall, whose 15-year-old daughter is a pupil at James Catholic High School, in Cheaply Hulme, which will be closed on Wednesday, backed the strikes.

She said: “I definitely support the teachers in what they’re trying to achieve, even if it means the schools have to close for a day.

“The teachers have worked hard and deserve to get something at the end of their careers.”

Unions including the NUT will assemble on Liverpool Road at 11.30 and march to Whitworth Park off Oxford Road for a rally at 12.30.

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