Hundreds strike to retire on full pensions at 60

SCHOOLS and libraries were closed and several council services were brought to a halt on Tuesday as hundreds of local government workers joined a 24-hour strike over pensions. The national strike

SCHOOLS and libraries were closed and several council services were brought to a halt on Tuesday as hundreds of local government workers joined a 24-hour strike over pensions.The national strike by members of Unison, the UK's largest union, was over Government plans to scrap a rule that lets some people retire on a full pension at 60.The strike, the biggest since the 1926 General Strike, had a widespread impact on council services as union members formed pickets outside Weston Town Hall and Somerset House, Weston Police Station, Sedgemoor District Council's offices in Bridgwater and Somerset County Hall in Taunton.Broadoak Community School and Baytree Special School in Weston were closed, North Somerset Museum kept it doors shut and the majority of the district's libraries did not open. Youth centres also remained closed.Councils put in special measures to make sure services for vulnerable residents, such as home care and community meals, were not affected.Members of the public were asked to put off any non-urgent police enquires until Wednesday as many police staff joined the pickets.North Somerset Unison branch secretary, Judith Porter, said: "We are fed up with being treated as the poor relation of the public services."It is not reasonable for someone of 50 to suddenly be told they have to work for 15 years instead of 10 to get their full pension."These are not fat cat pensioners, the average pension paid to women is less than £2,000 a year and less than £4,000 for men. This strike action is a last resort, we want to negotiate a solution."The Local Government Association has warned that changes proposed by unions would add at least 2 per cent a year to every council taxpayer's bill. Chairman of the Local Government Association, Sir Sandy Bruce Lockhart, said: "The council taxpayer simply cannot pay more."The changes are both needed and necessary. There must be a modern scheme that is affordable, viable and fit for the 21st century. "People are living longer and unless action is taken the cost to individual council taxpayers and local government will continue to rise. "The employers and the unions have both given their advice to the Deputy Prime Minister and together with staff are waiting for him, as the decision maker, to make up his mind." Chairman of Weston's Senior Citizens Forum, Ken Lacey, said:"They are looking for an elite pension few can equal."Quite frankly I don't think the unions will get a lot of public sympathy when the rest of us will have to foot the bill."To expect pensioners on a meagre pension and those on low incomes to contribute to this and fill the deficit is beyond belief."It makes it a two-tier society where the private sector works until the age of 70 and the public sector packs in at 60 on a nice pension."Maybe the unions would like to go on strike to provide us with a liveable pension so we can pay for theirs.

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