Public service staff strike

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PUBLIC services ground to a halt yesterday as an estimated 200,000 workers joined picket lines across central Scotland.

Schools closed and travel services were disrupted as local and transport authorities operated on minimum staffing levels — meanwhile the city subway closed altogether.

The strike — involving around two million workers UK-wide — came in the wake of Westminster plans to increase public sector pension contributions, raise the age of retirement and introduce career-average pension plans.

Those striking gathered at picket lines across Glasgow and East Renfrewshire before heading to a city centre march, and The Extra met with some members outside East Renfrewshire council’s Eastwood Park office.

Steven Larkin, branch secretary for Unison East Ren, commented: “A lot of people have been here since half seven this morning. Down at Thornliebank depot some have been there since half six — the early risers who are at work before you’re even out of your bed

“It’s a line in the sand moment today — not just for us but for everyone in the public sector. It’s time to say enough is enough”.

The father of two (35) has worked for the council’s finance department since leaving school, and hopes that yesterday’s action opens negotiations with the government.

He continued: “There’s been no talk between the government and the union since November 2.

“They say they’ve made an offer but it wasn’t an offer, it was a statement in parliament, and not once have they come back to make an offer that the unions can look at in detail”.

Fellow picketer Jim Burns, who lives in the southside, added: “Nobody wants the strike and it costs us all money. We’re busy and we have clients to look after, so it’s inconvenient — but we’re in a situation we didn’t create”.

For one early years education worker — who asked not to be named — the strike is predominantly an issue of retirement age.

She told The Extra: “I love my job, but I can’t see myself running after little children and looking after them properly at 67.

“You need balance in a workplace like ours — young and old — but we’re an ageing workforce and to have ladies in their late 60s doing a job like this is appalling.

“It’s unfair on them, the children and the parents”.

The council employee added: “We have to stand up and be counted — I want to make sure my children aren’t working until they’re in their 80s”.

Emergency services remained in place throughout the day, with little disruption to police, fire and rescue and ambulance services.

Eastwood MSP Ken Macintosh visited the picket line in support yesterday morning, while Conservative Newton Mearns councillor Jim Swift disagreed with the action, stating that any threat to council employee pensions was “hypothetical”.