Public sector strike impact on the South East

Public sector workers strike Image copyright bbc
Image caption Public sector workers turn out in force on the streets of Britain

We've long known this public sector strike was coming and it was estimated that two million workers would take action.

But what impact has it had on the South East?

Thousands of public sector workers across the region have taken to the picket lines in what unions are saying is the biggest walkout in a generation.

Teachers, border agency staff and health workers are striking over government plans to make their members pay more and work longer to earn their pensions.

The strike action has meant that many parents have had to take the day off with 145 schools out of 190 fully or partially closed in East Sussex.

Impact of closures

In West Sussex there are 140 schools fully or partially closed.

247 schools are closed in Surrey

In Medway, 79 schools have been affected.

And there are 230 fully or partially closed schools across Kent out of a total of 592.

Health services have also been affected with non emergency operations cancelled.

South East Coast Ambulance Service, which services Kent, Sussex and Surrey, say the strike is having a 'significant impact' on services.

They say they are now only responding to life-threatening emergencies.

It was warned there could be chaos at ports like Dover and airports, including Gatwick, due to the action being taken by immigration staff.

In the end it appears that the volunteers drafted in have helped to prevent the queues and delays predicted.

Disruption

The Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party and Sevenoaks, MP Michael Fallon, has condemned the strikes saying it was wrong for the unions to take action while negotiations over public sector pensions are still on-going.

His views have been echoed by Conservative MPs throughout the region.

The Conservative MP for Maidstone and the Weald, Helen Grant, admitted women have been affected most by the strike action - many having to take the day off to look after children.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Public sector workers strike at the port of Dover today

But she said: "The strike isn't helping anyone and has caused massive disruption."

Laura Sandys, MP for South Thanet and Sandwich, said: "I deeply regret that some public sector workers are choosing to strike today.

"Having met with a number of public sector workers from across Thanet, I do understand the upset and frustration that some are feeling over changes to their pensions.

"However, the government is midway through negotiations with unions and industrial action is extremely poorly timed."

Winter of discontent?

That view is not shared by the MP for Brighton Pavilion and Green Party Leader, Caroline Lucas.

She has joined not only joined those taking action on the picket line but has also added her name to that of fourteen MPs who have signed a Commons motion supporting the action.

They're calling on the government to "engage in serious negotiations to resolve the dispute".

Just as MPs from different parties are split over this issue the government and unions still seem very far apart.

David Cameron has described the strike as a "damp squib".

Something that is only likely to inflame anger amongst union members whose leaders say the dispute has been "solidly supported".

Could we be facing another winter of discontent?