Strikes and demonstrations in Norfolk over public sector pay, pensions and jobs
© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2010
Demonstrations and strikes are taking place in Norfolk today as workers protest over public sector pensions, pay and jobs.
Union leaders predict that nationally, up to 400,000 workers will be involved in a wave of demonstrations, fuelled by ministers making clear in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech that they are pressing ahead with their controversial reforms.
Civil servants, lecturers, health workers, Ministry of Defence staff, immigration officers, off-duty police officers and members of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary will be among those joining strikes and other forms of protest across the UK.
About 300 off-duty police officers from Norfolk have travelled to London for a protest march, while about 70 prison officers at Wayland Prison are picketing outside the jail.
Senior prison officer Matthew Atkins, Wayland Prison’s branch chairman of the Prison Officers’ Association said: “We did not want to take action but we have had to. We are being asked to work until we are 68, but we are saying that, with the type of prisoner we have to deal with, that’s not the age to be doing this job.” He said that, as a responsible union, despite the strike action, officers would still deal with emergency situations and serve meals.
Picketers were also outside the JobCentre Plus offices in Pottergate, Norwich, while campaign group the Norfolk Coalition Against the Cuts held a rally the Kings Centre in King Street, Norwich, at noon.
A spokeswoman for the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital said of its 6,000 staff, about a dozen were taking part in industrial action.
She added those staff were in non-nursing, support services roles and the hospital was running as normal.
Just three staff at the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston took part in industrial action.
Rail passengers have also faced disruption, with drivers working for East Midlands Trains carrying out their fourth of six planned one-day strikes.
Limited timetables are in place on the line which connects Norwich with Peterborough, Nottingham and Liverpool after drivers’ union Aslef took action over plans to reduce pension fund contributions.
With the strikes mainly involving civil servants, Norfolk County Council said it was not aware of any of its staff being on strike, with schools open as normal.
Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude described the strike as “futile” and insisted that talks over pensions will not be reopened.
The walkout follows last November’s huge stoppage by more than one-and-a-half million workers in protest at the changes to their pensions.
Most public sector unions remain opposed to the reforms, which they warned would leave millions of workers having to pay more into their pensions, retiring later and receiving less when they stop work.
Ministers insist the current level of public sector pensions is unsustainable and reforms are needed, saying workers will still receive decent payments on retirement.