What public sector strikes mean for you


On one level, the public sector strikes offer the opportunity to revisit our priorities, reconsider our views on what constitutes a fair deal for pensions and ask whether we are becoming pawns for major faceless organisations to use and discard as just another resource.

On another level, it's a right royal pain if you want to get things done. So in practical terms, how will you be affected?

Are all the schools closed?

If you're affected by this, then you're already going to be well aware of it. Some 58% of schools are closed and another 13% are at least partially closed. In Scotland the number of closed schools reached 98%. Parents have little choice other than to call on childcare, take the day off, or try desperately to work from home amidst chaos and destruction.

Did I hear that the airports would be in chaos?

It seems that worries about this were overblown. Some immigration desks are being manned by police and home office staff, and there has been very little disruption reported so far. Even major airports like Heathrow and Gatwick are ticking along. However, it makes sense to leave plenty of time to clear border control anyway.

So is all travel OK?

Actually some transport unions are out, so the Tyne and Wear Metro has been closed and there are reports of heavy traffic. Glasgow underground is also shut, bus and rail in Northern Ireland is affected, and ferries from Orkney and Shetland are cancelled.

What if there's an emergency?

The police have promised there will be the usual service on the streets and the usual response to emergencies, but if you wander into your local police station you may well find there's no-one there to help.

Likewise, hospitals will cover emergencies and critical treatment such as chemotherapy and dialysis. However, thousands of non-emergency operations have been cancelled and routine appointments rescheduled.

Will I notice anyone else on strike?

If you want to use a library, community centre, leisure centre, car park or job centre, then make sure you check with your local council website first because there's a good chance it may be closed. Don't try checking with your local council office itself (for this or anything else) because they will be closed too.

The civil service are also out, so don't try to contact a tax inspector. It's questionable whether you are likely to be hit by the fact crown prosecutors, government lawyers, special advisers and diplomats are out on strike. It really depends whether this sort of profession tends to be part of your every-day life.

Weather forecasters have joined the strike too, although they are offering emergency cover for shipping and aviation, and prison officers are striking.

So is it worth it?

It depends who you ask. Public sector workers argue that the changes to their pensions are unfair. They are being asked to pay more in, work for longer, and accept a pension based on a 'career average' salary rather than a final salary (which is bound to be lower). The government argues that it's a good deal, and better than the private sector. It also says the strikes could cost the UK £500 million and lead to job losses.

But what do you think? Let us know in the comments.

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