STRIKING teachers took to the streets of Huddersfield in their battle over pensions.
They held demonstrations outside schools including Salendine Nook High School and Huddersfield New College, and hundreds attended a rally at the St Patrick’s Centre in the town centre.
It was part of a huge nationwide protest over Government plans to change pensions.
But the action meant more than 114 Kirklees schools were either closed or partially closed.
That caused disruption for many thousands of families, who had to find childcare cover for the day.
There was also disruption at the town’s Jobcentre and at the driving test centre, as civil servants joined the day of action.
Declan O’Neill, one of the NUT reps at Huddersfield New College where there were around 20 pickets, said: “The Government is trying to make us work a lot longer and pay on average an additional £1,000 into our pensions.
“It is a panic reaction by the Government to claw back money they have spent.”
Jonathan Hood, ATL representative at the college, said: “All these changes have been done without negotiations and discussions.
“Many of our members are parents as well, and we realise people are angry but the day has been carefully selected to minimise any disruption to children’s education.”
Mr O’Neill added: “If the Government continues like this the long-term future of education is under threat.”
He said that without a change to the Government’s attitude the threat of further strikes could not be ruled out.
Richard Murgatoryd, of the NUT, said the message which the strikers were getting from staff who were crossing the picket line, but who were not a member of one of the unions taking action, was of complete support for the day of action.
The strike by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers was be the first in its history.
Gill Collins, ATL branch secretary for Kirklees said: “Striking is not a decision we take lightly. We have not balloted for national action in 127 years but we feel we have no choice when reason has failed.
“After months and months of talks, we are still waiting for the Government to tell us whether the Teachers’ Pension Scheme is in good health or not. It was valued in 2006 when measures were put in place to account for increased life expectancy – and the scheme has not been valued since then.
“So how can the government say we need to put in 3.4% more in contributions, we need to get less by moving to career average rather than final salary, and we need to work until we’re 68 in order to secure the scheme?”
She added that the ATL and NUT had worked closely together following decisions by their National Executives to hold ballots for strike action.
Hazel Danson, a Huddersfield member of the NUT’s national executive, said teachers were not oblivious to the current economic problems and financial hardships many people are suffering because families of the children they teach are suffering too.
STRIKING teachers and civil servants rallied in the town centre against Government plans to change their pensions.
And union leaders called for wider industrial action including council workers later this year.
Mac Andrassy, who teaches art at Colne Valley High School, was among a crowd of more than 100 at Market Place in the town centre yesterday lunchtime.
“The Government are telling us to pay more, get less back and work longer,” he said.
Mr Andrassy added: “When I have explained to pupils what this is about, they said we were right to strike,” he said.
“We’re fighting for everyone’s future, which is quite a good lesson for kids.”
Hazel Danson of Kirklees National Union of Teachers, and Paul Holmes, of Kirklees Unison, spoke at yesterday’s rally.
Mike Foster, of Kirklees Unison, called on his union’s national leadership to join a wider public sector strike in the autumn.
He told the rally: “Why weren’t we balloted as well so that the whole of this town could have ground to a halt?”
AN expert on industrial relations believes yesterday’s mass strike was supported by the public.
Prof Keith Laybourne, of the University of Huddersfield, insists the walkout by hundreds of thousands of people had struck a chord.
But he also insists that had the Government been sensible, the dispute could well have been avoided.
Prof Laybourne, an expert on British labour history, believes the core dispute over pensions could have been settled in detailed negotiations had the Government been open about the figures.
“There have been talks going on for months and, throughout them all, the simple question that the unions wanted answering has gone unanswered.
“The unions have asked the Government for details of the money that is in the pension funds. I am sure that a civil servant was given the task of providing those figures and would be able to do so in a day or two, yet the answer has not been forthcoming.
“I suspect there is a surplus yet the Government do not want that fact to be made known.”
Prof Laybourne said yesterday’s walk out was possibly the biggest one-day strike since January 1979, when more than 1.2m workers took action – and heralded the winter of discontent.
Yet he believes there was widespread support for the teachers and civil servants taking action.
“Many of us have had our pensions reviewed and adjusted over the years. I am sure negotiations can resolve this issue.”