Hundreds of thousands of public sector workers are taking part in a UK-wide strike to protest proposed government austerity that has taken aim at their pensions and benefits.
Expectations were that between 250,000 and 400,000 people would take to the streets, including off-duty police officers, public health workers, and university employees. The strike is the latest in a series since the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition came to power two years ago and reveals that anger over public sector cuts is far from over.
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Up to 400,000 public sector employees, including police officers, lecturers and border control staff, are staging a day of protest against the government austerity programme, with thousands of people expected to attend events in central London.
About 20,000 off-duty police officers are due to march in the capital on Thursday and plan to wear a total of 16,000 black caps to mark projected job losses over the next four years.
At the same time, public sector unions will hold their third one-day walkout in 12 months, led by the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) civil servants' union, health workers from the Unite union, teachers and lecturers from the University and College Union, the Nipsa civil servants' union in Northern Ireland and Royal Navy support staff at the RMT union. [...]
"We don't have industrial rights and we cannot do anything about the poor treatment we are receiving," said Julie Nesbit of the Police Federation, which represents 124,000 rank and file officers. She added: "The police service is the ultimate public service. We are the people without whom the rest of the public services cannot function." [...]
Tens of thousands of lecturers from at least 75 universities and university colleges and more than 270 further education colleges will take part in the walkout over changes to the teachers' pension scheme.
The changes are likely to cost lecturers an extra £350-£500 a year in pension contributions – a 50% rise. When the changes are introduced in 2015, many will have to work until the age of 67 or 68, rather than 65.
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), which represents lecturers, said college and university staff were already seeing the impact of the government's pension changes.
"It is simply not fair for ordinary families to be to be bearing the brunt of the government's cuts while those at the top get tax cuts," she said.
Universities and colleges across England are taking part. Steve Storey, branch chairman of the UCU at Sunderland University, said lecturers in their 20s, 30s and 40s would suffer from the changes. "A lot of lecturers, like myself, are going on strike and sacrificing a day of pay to protect the pensions of people in the future," he said.
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Agence France-Presse reports:
Hundreds of thousands of public sector workers were set to strike over pensions Thursday and police were due to protest against Prime Minister David Cameron's austerity measures.
The coalition government says the proposed changes are a vital part of its mission to cut a record deficit, but trade unions say the plans will force members to pay more and work longer for lower pensions.
Immigration staff, civil servants, health workers, lecturers and prison workers are expected to take part in the 24-hour strike, with possible disruption at Heathrow and other London airports.
There were also likely to be problems on the Eurotunnel linking England and France.
Unions said they expected 400,000 people to take part but government officials said they expected the number to be half that.
About 20,000 off-duty police officers -- who are banned from striking under British law during their working hours -- are expected to rally in London against cuts to pay, conditions and staff numbers.
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