Public sector strike: Schools closed in Devon

More than 250 schools were closed or partially closed in Devon because of strike action.

Hospitals and the Met Office in Exeter were also affected as public sector workers walked out over pensions and pay.

Police have estimated about 3,900 took part in a march through Exeter with about 500 people marching through Plymouth.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said it was "unfair" for taxpayers to foot the rising public sector pensions bill.

Mr Gove said public sector unions "want to provide a platform for confrontation just when we all need to pull together".

Unions say planned changes to pension schemes will mean people working longer, paying more and receiving less when they retire.

South Hams District Council said many of its front line services were running normally, with about 16% of its staff on strike.

The Dartmouth lower ferry was out of action and there was some disruption to recycling and rubbish collections.

West Devon Borough Council said its services were unaffected although 27% of its staff took action.

Torbay Council said all its libraries were open and refuse collections took place as normal.

About 25 workers were on a picket line at the Prince Rock refuse depot in Plymouth although a number of refuse lorries left to collect the city's rubbish.

Image caption Staff from the South Western Ambulance Service were striking

Richard Cox, a loader at the depot, said: "This is our future and this is our money and we want it.

"We've got to make a stand and we've got to stand against this government to stop them taking our money away."

Picket lines were in place at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital as staff also walked out at Derriford in Plymouth, Torbay Hospital and the North Devon District Hospital.

Steve Wright, branch secretary of Unison and a portering supervisor at Exeter's hospital, said: "It's the first time for a lot of us, so it's all new.

"It's [about] the amount we're having to pay, we had a pensions choice about two years ago and we actually had our individual choices but unfortunately this government has introduced another pension scheme which we just don't have a choice in."

All patients were advised to attend outpatient appointments unless they had been contacted to say the appointment had been cancelled.

The union Prospect said about 60% of the 1,800 Met Office staff in Exeter had gone out on strike.

Image caption The union prospect said about 60% of staff at the Met Office in Exeter were on strike

Those on the picket line said several non-union members had refused to cross the picket line and there was disruption to low priority services.

Prospect had agreed emergency cover to ensure key weather information remains available for aviation, shipping, defence and other essential services such as emergency flood warnings.

The Torpoint ferry, which takes cars between Devon and Cornwall and the Dartmouth lower ferry were not running but the upper ferry which is privately operated was running.

Some hospitals such as Derriford in Plymouth and North Devon Hospital postponed some routine operations and appointments.

Radiographers, physiotherapists, and health visitors, along with cleaners, porters, and catering staff took part in the strike.

Some nursing staff walked out though doctors did not and most nurses and midwives had not been balloted for strike action.

Torbay Hospital said only non-urgent physiotherapy appointments had been rescheduled.

The Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital said the majority of outpatient clinics had run as normal.

Image caption About 25 works at Plymouth's Prince Rock refuse depot have been on a picket line since 04:00 GMT

More than 170 schools of the 364 schools in Devon were affected and a full list is on the county council's website.

Torbay Council said 24 out of 42 schools were closed or partially closed. A full list is on the council's website.

And 56 schools in Plymouth were affected - a full list is on the council's website.

The county council said frontline services such as residential care homes, rapid response and other services jointly provided with NHS Devon would be maintained.

The majority of the council's care services, including meals on wheels and personal care to people in their own homes, are delivered by independent care providers and were unaffected by the strike.

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