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Unions brand strike action ‘overwhelming success’

Union leaders have labelled yesterday’s public sector strike action over pay as an “overwhelming success”, with more than one million workers reported to have attended picket lines.

In total, more than 1,200 picket lines were set up in front of town halls, council depots and schools across England, Wales and Northern Ireland; 4,000 schools were closed, with 2,000 others partially shut; and many local authorieis operated a ‘skeleton service’.

Members of six unions – National Union of Teachers (NUT), Fire Brigades Union (FBU), Unison, Unite, Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) and GMB – took part in what has been called the large round of industrial action for three years.

However, the Cabinet Office labelled the action as responsible, adding “these strikes risk damaging those who are working hard to get this country moving again”.

But Dave Prentis, general secretary at Unison, said: “The strength of feeling amongst our local government and school support workers over the issue of pay was plain to see.

“The decision to take strike action and sacrifice a day's pay was a very difficult one, particularly for the hundreds of thousands of low paid workers, but our members felt this was the only way to have their voices heard.”

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude told Parliament that the more often the unions call strike action irresponsibly on the basis of outdated mandates and ballots with very low levels of support, the stronger the case for reform of the law becomes. “The action that has been called for…has made that case significantly stronger,” he said.

Commenting on the day of action across England and Wales, Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, stated: “Extraordinarily the government’s response to the action has been to completely ignore the issues and instead seek to reduce people’s right to strike.

“There is no point pontificating on the fact that citizens have the right to strike if every time they do so they are vilified. It is a clear indication that this government does not want to listen to our concerns, nor do they want them drawn to the general public’s attention.”

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