Cambridgeshire

Protest march on pension concerns

Hundreds of people have taken part in a protest march in Cambridge to back a strike by teachers and civil servants.

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), which represents civil servants, also organised a protest at the Passport Office in Peterborough, attended by about 200 people.

Many schools in Cambridgeshire also closed as teachers joined the strike over planned pension changes.

PCS workers also went on strike at Job Centres and courts in the county.

The demonstration in Cambridge took place in Parker's Piece in the centre of the city.

Mike Black, PCS branch secretary for Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs in Cambridge, led a picket line outside the city offices.

'Injustice'

He said: "We're striking for a better alternative to the misery and hardship that the Conservative and Liberal Democrat government have got in store for us all.

"It would be nice if the government would recognise the injustice of the position they are taking, and would realise how they're offending the sense of fair play of the general public.

"Essentially they've been caught in the act of robbery, red-handed.

"We've got to keep fighting these terrible proposals until we get a more just way forward."

Image caption ATL members picketed at Cambridge Regional College

Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) are taking part in the action.

In Cambridgeshire County Council 70 out of 249 schools were closed and 47 partially closed.

Peterborough City Council said that of its 74 schools, 22 had confirmed closures and 14 were partially closing.

Gillian Phillips, 54, teaches at a primary school near Huntingdon and and was taking part in her first strike in 21 years of teaching.

'Burnt out'

"This time the issues are such that I felt I had to make my voice heard," she said.

"I regularly work a 55 or 60-hour week, my days are relentless.

"By the end of a term, teachers are exhausted, they're burnt out and the thought of having to do that after the age of 60 is untenable."

Jon Duveen, secretary of the NUT in Cambridgeshire, said the action was a last resort.

"We've been trying to negotiate with the government since February over the pension issue but the government hasn't responded seriously in any way," he said.

The University and College Union (UCU) also took part.

The government has insisted its plans are "fair to taxpayers" and other trade unions who are continuing with negotiations.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: "I think it's a real shame that there are strikes today.

"There are talks that are actually on-going between the government and the trades unions."

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