London has filled with thousands of striking teachers and civil servants marching in protest at pension reforms.
It is day one of a 48-hour strike that has closed or disrupted 85 percent of schools – a figure the government disputes – emptied government offices, and caused travel delays at airports and ports.
Government austerity policies have slashed jobs and frozen wages. Now pensions are under attack, and that is a sacrifice too far for the strikers.
“There’s a bit of anger in that people who got us into this mess are not suffering at all and yet people who are committed to societies and communities are. That does upset me, yes.” said striking teacher Olly Hamdi.
The government says the strike is wrong. So does the Labour opposition. The biggest public sector union Unison is not taking part. It wants to see the outcome of negotiations, even if they are reportedly not going well.
“These strikes are wrong at a time when negotiations are still going on. But parents and the public have been let down by both sides because the government has acted in a reckless and provocative manner. After today’s disruption, I urge both sides to put aside the rhetoric, get round the negotiating table, and stop it happening again,” said Labour leader Ed Milliband.
This strike involves around one in eight public sector workers, but other unions are preparing strike plans should talks break down. The government may face a testing summer of industrial action.