UK strikes to cause worst industrial chaos in five years
Published 30/06/2011 | 05:00
THE worst industrial chaos in five years is expected to cripple Britain today when a wave of strikes hits schools, courts and travel.
The strikes pose the most serious industrial challenge to David Cameron's coalition government since it was formed.
Hundreds of thousands of teachers, lecturers, civil servants and other workers will walk out for 24 hours in protest at controversial plans to change their pensions, cut jobs and freeze pay as the UK faces its own austerity measures.
Mark Serwotka, leader of the Public and Commercial Services Union, said it was the most important strike in his union's history, adding: "Everything we have ever worked for is under attack."
Mr Cameron last night launched a fresh attack on the strike, while business leaders warned it would have a "significant impact" on industry.
Mr Cameron said there was no case for industrial action and repeated that the proposed changes to public sector pensions were "fair".
He said he hoped "as many mums and dads as possible" would be able to take their children to school despite the action. "I don't believe there is any case for industrial action tomorrow, not least because talks are still ongoing. It is only a minority of unions who have taken the decision to go ahead and strike," he said.
"What we are proposing is fair. It is fair to taxpayers but it is also fair to the public sector because we want to continue strong public sector pensions."
He also attacked Labour leader Ed Miliband, who did not ask about the walkout, accusing him of being "in the pocket of the unions".
The British Chambers of Commerce said disruption would lead to many parents having to take the day off work to look after their children.
And lawyer Paul Griffin warned that workers could face disciplinary action if they took time off to look after their children.
He said: "Anyone thinking of phoning into the office and claiming absence on the grounds of a parental emergency could find themselves in hot water.
Whilst parents are entitled to unpaid time off to arrange childcare due to sickness or some other such unpredictable event, these strikes have been known about for months. Employers could argue that this situation does not qualify as an emergency and take disciplinary action against individuals who don't turn up for work."
Picket lines will be mounted outside school gates, courts, job centres, Parliament, driving test centres and Government buildings by members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT); Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL); University and College Union; and the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS).
Airports have warned travellers to expect disruption on arrival into the UK as immigration and customs officers join the strike.
Passengers have been advised to consider travelling on a different day to avoid delays as hundreds of staff walk out.