MORE mass walk-outs could be planned across South Yorkshire if the Government refuses to back down over plans to reform public sector pension, unions warned today in the wake of yesterday’s mass strike.
As tens of thousands of workers downed tools - including teachers, police workers, health service employees, cleaners, cooks and council workers - union leaders said they hoped Government officials would take notice of the mass demonstrations up and down the country and enter into ‘meaningful negotiations’.
But union bosses in South Yorkshire said their members would ‘do it all again’ if required, in order to protect their pensions.
Police said 10,000 people attended the rally in Sheffield’s Barker’s Pool - and thousands more manned picket lines across South Yorkshire.
Schools and government buildings were shut, operations were cancelled and council and emergency services disrupted.
Paul Desgranges, NASUWT national executive committee member for South Yorkshire, said he wouldn’t be surprised if teachers took further strike action in the new year.
“I think it is a real possibility because the situation in education is currently so gloomy,” he said.
“Teachers are feeling they have nothing to lose. They can’t work until they are 68, their pensions are under attack and they face a further pay freeze.”
Charlie Carruth, Unison’s regional organiser for Sheffield healthworkers, said: “We didn’t want to take action - and we don’t particularly want to do so again.
“But if the negotiations don’t get anywhere we are ready to go again.
“The Government needs to listen to us - people are not prepared to pay more in to their pensions to get less back.”
The Unison and Unite unions representing civilians at South Yorkshire Police also said members would be prepared to walk out again if an agreement could not be reached.
Glyn Boyington, from Unison, said: “Striking is not something we are used to doing - it was a new experience for many and one we hope to never have to repeat but our vote asked ‘would you be prepared to strike?’ and did not just say it was for one day only.
“Things are now in the hands of the Government and if there are proper meaningful negotiations and some compromised solution can be reached, we would hope to never have to strike again.”
Alan Reaney, who represents the county’s Unite police workers, said: “It was the last thing we wanted to happen and we do want to get back to work and leading our lives as normal but we can’t do that until we get some reassurance about our pensions, so the answer to the question ‘will we strike again?’ is ‘yes’ if negotiations at a national level fail.
He added: “The Government’s announcement of a public sector pay freeze this week has not helped matters either - it has infuriated people.”