NEARLY 2,000 public sector workers took to the streets of Sheffield yesterday in one of the biggest public displays of union protest we have seen for some time.
The sense of anger and betrayal at the Government is such that the majority of schools were forced to close or partially close because so many teachers joined the picket lines.
And now we are being told that unless discussions with the Government resolve the issue over the summer, we can expect even more widespread industrial action.
Even the more moderate union, the National Association of Head Teachers, has warned it is prepared to ballot its members before the end of term, such is the anger at the Government’s proposals on pension reform.
For the time being, it appears the union action is carrying public support from parents who are being directly affected by the decision to close schools.
However, there is an undercurrent to the union activity. Many in the private sector have already had to take on board hardships because of the economic climate and recession.
Many have had final salary pension schemes closed, they have all been told the retirement age will increase and companies have imposed wage freezes and pay cuts in an effort to survive.
So the teaching unions and other public sector employees will need to tread carefully.
Further industrial action that will force parents to part with hard-earned cash to find alternative childcare arrangements, or to take unpaid leave to look after their families, runs the risk of eroding that support.
It would be far more sensible for the teaching unions to work with the schools and let them know in advance the impact of industrial action so that parents have more time to prepare for the impact than they had this time.
After all, the parents are not to blame.
Practical support when you need it
LIKE it or not, cancer is a fact of life.
It’s the disease everyone dreads because its effects can be so devastating, not just for the patient, but for their family and friends.
So it is reassuring to know that Sheffield’s cancer services are among the best in the country. The Cancer Support Centre at Weston Park Hospital has been named as a runner-up in a competition which rewards charities carrying out work to improve people’s health.
The centre helps patients and families cope with the impact of cancer by offering practical support in coping physically, emotionally, practically and financially.
This is an invaluable resource and its recognition adds to the already enviable reputation our city has for medical excellence.
Congratulations to all concerned for helping families at the most vulnerable times of their lives.