East Cambridgeshire workers join nationwide day of action

BUSINESS leaders have hit out at the disruption caused by today’s (Wednesday) strike action, which has seen thousands of public sector workers from across the district walk out for 24 hours.

Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce said firms across East Cambridgeshire will be “hit badly” by the day of public sector strikes, which is expected to see about two million workers from across the UK down tools in a dispute over pension reforms.

John Bridge OBE, chief executive of Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce, said: “With the economy continuing to struggle, organising strike action is both irresponsible and reckless. The unions involved are ignoring the fact that Britain has to make its way in a competitive world.”

He added, “With businesses doing everything they can to grow and improve the economy, for public sector workers to walk out over modest changes to a pension scheme that is not affordable in the present circumstances is very misguided.

“It is true that austerity measures are affecting lives across Britain, both in the public and private sector. But these measures are essential to maintaining our fiscal credibility and helping to stabilise the economy.”

Union leaders and headteachers defended the strike action however, Mike Rowe, Unison executive branch member in Ely led the walk out at the district council.

“We feel we are being targeted at a time when we simply cannot afford it,” he told the Ely Standard from the picket lines on Wednesday morning.

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“We don’t want to cause disruption to the public and we don’t want to lose a day’s pay but there comes a point where they have to do something. “The so-called ‘gold plated’ pensions are simply not there for most public sector workers who just want a fair pension for their retirement. We feel the way local council workers have been targeted over the last few years is simply unfair, especially in light of the news that we will only be getting a 1 per cent rise in the next couple of years.”

And Ely St John’s headteacher Sarah Hogben, told parents: “Members of school staff do recognise the importance of delivering teaching and learning and no one has taken the decision to support the strike lightly.

Across East Cambridgeshire as many as 15 primary and secondary schools were closed, forcing parents to take time off work to cater for their children, while there was also disruption at services at East Cambridgeshire District Council (ECDC) and at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.

Gary Applin, branch secretary of East Of England Ambulance UNISON, said: “We believe everyone has the right to a decent pension and dignity when they retire. The proposed reforms will mean most ambulance staff will see their monthly pension contributions go up by an average of 50 per cent. We just can’t afford that kind of increase.”