1,000 striking public sector workers vow more action over pensions row
STRIKING public sector workers today vowed to stage more walk outs unless the Government negotiates over controversial pension reforms.
Picket lines were set up outside Jobcentres, tax offices, colleges and universities across the region yesterday.
The workers were supported by prison staff, who staged their own surprise walkouts.
And hundreds of off-duty police officers from Staffordshire and Cheshire joined a march in London.
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Elsewhere, union members at East Midlands Trains continued their own long-running pensions dispute which saw passengers being bussed from Stoke Station. The Prison Officers Association (POA) sanctioned protest meetings at prisons across the country over plans to increase the pension retirement age to 68.
It meant Werrington Young Offenders' Institution, which has room for 160 teenage inmates, was operating on 'minimum cover' as between 30 to 40 staff walked out at 7am yesterday.
Prisoners were kept in their cells to ensure the centre remained secure.
Neil Bourne, chairman of the POA's Werrington branch, said: "We received a call from the National Executive Committee to organise a branch meeting on the car park outside the prison to protest. It's unlawful for us to take industrial action so this was not a strike, but a meeting."
Similar walkouts affected staffing levels at Stafford Prison and Drake Hall women's prison, at Eccleshall.
POA general secretary Steve Gillan said: "The POA has submitted a case to the Government to support our view that it is unrealistic for prison officers to be automatically linked to the state pension age, which will ultimately rise to 68. Unfortunately, it has fallen on deaf ears and prison officers have no other option but to protest."
More than 1,000 local members of unions, including the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union Unite and the Universities and Colleges union, were involved in yesterday's strikes.
They say the pension changes will leave millions having to pay more, retire later and receive less.
PCS members mounted a picket line outside the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) office in Albion Square, Hanley, yesterday morning.
Peter Rofe, PCS branch secretary for the DWP in North Staffordshire, said: "We regret any damage to services to the public, but we have been left with no alternative because the Government won't negotiate. There is a prospect of another strike in June."
The dispute also closed Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court for criminal cases, and affected some lectures at colleges and universities.
Police march on London: See Pages 6&7; Comment: Page 10