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Massive nationwide strike strangles UK public services
Up to 2 million public sector workers participated in strike action on Thursday against ‘poverty pay’, attacks on pensions, heavy workloads and workplace safety.
Picket lines were manned by trade unionist and supporters  nationwide outside courts, council offices, job centers and fire  stations, as well as outside the Houses of Parliament. Thousands of people took part in marches and rallies in London  and other UK cities. Meanwhile, hundreds of schools in England  and Wales were forced to close or partially shut, as did many  museums and libraries.
The action is the latest in opposition to a four-year public  sector pay freeze, an austerity measure enforced at a time when  the cost of living has risen substantially. The TUC estimates  that public sector workers have been £2,500 worse off a year  since 2010.

The government condemned the ‘disruptive’ strikes, with the  Department for Education arguing there was no justification for  the action while talks with ministers were still ongoing. Grant Shapps, the Conservative Party Chairman, said: “Today's  strikes are disrupting the lives of millions. Schools have been  shut, damaging children's education and forcing parents to take  time off work or scramble round for childcare. Libraries and  other public services have closed, causing difficulties to  families across the country.”

Commenting on the day of action across England and Wales,  Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of  Teachers, attacked the government’s response to the strike. “Extraordinarily the government’s response to today’s action has  been to completely ignore the issues and instead seek to reduce  people’s right to strike,” she said.
“There is no point pontificating on the fact that citizens have  the right to strike if every time they do so they are vilified.  It is a clear indication that this government does not want to  listen to our concerns, nor do they want them drawn to the  general public’s attention.”

Blower went on to blame the government’s failure to “engage in  any meaningful discussions” about the escalating dispute. “It is high time that we saw some significant movement,” Blower  said. “Teachers love their jobs but unless their concerns on pay,  pensions and workload are addressed teacher recruitment will  certainly become an issue.”
Labour, the UK’s main opposition party, which draws the majority  of its funding from the trade union movement, refused to condone  or condemn the strikes, with leader Ed Miliband calling the  strikes “a sign of failure on both sides.”
His remarks alienated many of the party’s natural support base,  while allowing the Conservative government to accuse Labour of  weakness.
“I understand the anger of workers who feel they are being  singled out by a reckless and provocative government,” Miliband  told journalists. “But I believe this action is wrong.  Negotiations are ongoing.” “The government’s handling of the issue has been high-handed and  arrogant.”
“My message to both sides is this – what the British people want  and expect is that you now get back to the negotiating table and  redouble your efforts to find an agreed solution. Put aside the  rhetoric and avoid any further disruption to parents and the  public.”

A survey of over 1,000 adults conducted on the eve of the strike  for the Unite union found 70 percent of the public backed the  right to strike. It also found 59 percent thought the government  is unfairly targeting public sector workers on pay. Even among 2010 Conservative voters, support for a pay rise stood  at 52 percent, while more than two-thirds overall disagreed the  government’s below inflation pay cap should remain in place until  2018.

10.07.2014
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