Camden workers take part in biggest strike for a generation

Schools have closed and hospital appointments operations cancelled across Camden today as trade unions walked out in the biggest strike in a generation.

All but two schools were thought to have shut for the day as teachers, council workers, lecturers and refuse cleaners from across the borough join an expected two million workers across the country in the industrial action against public sector pension cuts.

Waving flags and chanting slogans, workers set up picket lines outside Haverstock School in Haverstock Hill, Chalk Farm, and Acland Burghley in Burghley Road, Tufnell Park.

While striking council employees are gathering outside the town hall in Judd Street, Kings Cross, this morning where they will be met by a red double-decker “protest bus” on the first stop of its tour to galvanise support for the walkout.

Speaking at the Haverstock School picket line, Andrew Baisley, branch secretary of Camden’s National Union of Teachers, said support for the strike had hardened after yesterday’s autumn statement in which the chancellor announced that 710,000 public sector jobs will be axed.

He said: “Closures at schools have been very strong and I’ve been on a couple of picket lines this morning and we are expecting a large Camden contingent on the demonstration today.

“The government says it is negotiating in good faith with the unions, yet without any warning they have announced they are making the pension deal even worse by raising the pension age to 67 a decade earlier than planned.

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“There wasn’t one measure that fell on the rich.”

The government wants to change public sector pensions so that employees retire later, pay larger contributions, and draw a pension based on their average career long salary rather than their final salary.

Trade unions say this is unfair and will penalise hard working people, but the government insists that rising life expectancy means the current pension scheme is unaffordable.

Mr Baisley said the government had forced trade unions into taking strike action because it “refused to negotiate with us in good faith”.

“They want us to work longer, pay more and at the end of it we will be getting less. The government is trying to raid public sector pensions to pay for the economic crisis.”

The branch secretary also thanked school pupils who have organised to join their teachers on the picket line this morning.

He said: “I am very touched. It is a mark of the fact that the government has so alienated so many groups of people because of the way they have conducted themselves with such manifest unfairness.”

George Binette, branch secretary of Camden Unison, said: “I think the support we are seeing is a reflection of the anger on not just the attack on pensions, but wider government policies.

“We have lost 350 jobs within Camden since July. We have seen a threat to close libraries and the complete closure of play provision. There is a considerable well spring of anger.”