HUNDREDS of thousands of civil servants went on strike yesterday, causing disruption in Huddersfield.
Lecturers, driving test examiners, tax inspectors and jobcentre staff were among those taking industrial action against Government plans to make them pay more for their pensions while working longer and receiving less.
And prison warders launched surprise action yesterday against plans to make them work until 68.
Staffing at prisons in England and Wales was reduced to minimum levels necessary to maintain health and safety from 7am.
The move affected Kirklees Magistrates’ Court, with cases postponed because defendants had been due to appear from prison via videolink.
Only two of the court’s five rooms were operating yesterday because of the industrial action.
Lecturers were also on strike at the University of Huddersfield yesterday.
But spokesman John Ramsdin said there had been limited disruption.
“There are some lecturers on strike but we won’t know how many for a few days,” he said.
“The strike action isn’t affecting us greatly because we’re in the exam period. We’ve made provision for the exams.”
Elsewhere there appeared to be little disruption in the town, with no pickets outside Kirklees College or the job centre on Market Street.
Meanwhile, dozens of Huddersfield police took part in a protest in London yesterday against plans to change their terms and conditions.
Seventy officers travelled to the capital in two coaches to join thousands of their colleagues from across the country.
West Yorkshire Police Federation vice-chairman, Jon Christopher, told the Examiner: “It was an excellent march, with about of 30,000 off-duty officers taking part.
“The atmosphere was very good and united. It was a good-natured event, no incidents at all, which is what you would expect.”
Mr Christopher added that the public backed the federation.
“Members of the public were stopping us to say they supported us. We take a lot of heart from that,” he said.
Union leaders estimated up to 400,000 workers were on strike yesterday but the Government put the figure at 100,000.
Work on Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships in Birkenhead and Portland stopped.
Seven national museums closed, as well as the Tate Gallery in Liverpool.
Picket lines at the Scottish Parliament, Faslane nuclear base and Edinburgh Castle.
Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman gave the strike his lukewarm backing yesterday.
“I’m always very reluctant to see people strike because it hurts the consumer and the traveller, the people who desperately want a service to be provided,” said the Labour man.
“But, on the other hand, I do see that people are very concerned about the cuts in their pensions. In a democracy people have the right to withdraw their labour in protest.
“This Government should get the message that there’s a great deal of discontent because they don’t think it’s fair.”
Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney opposes the strike.
“It’s a shame that a handful of unions insist on carrying on with this action.
“The Government came forward with their final proposal earlier this year after a long period of intensive negotiations with the trade unions,” said the Conservative.
“I think the proposal for public sector pensions remain among the very best available and can be sustained for the future.
“We’re all being asked to work a bit longer and pay a little more.
“I think the Government has offered good quality pensions that are sustainable. There’s no point making an offer and in five years having to revisit the issue because the money isn’t there.”
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said: “It is very disappointing that a handful of unions insist on carrying on with futile strike action which will benefit no-one.
“We would urge these union leaders to reconsider their position. Pension talks will not be reopened and nothing further will be achieved through strike action.”
General secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union Mark Serwotka said: “In every major public sector scheme – health, education and the civil service – the majority of trade unions have refused to accept these cuts in their pensions.
“We’re going to have the highest pension age of any western European country.”