THOUSANDS of public sector workers have gone on a 24-hour strike today (Thursday) to protest at changes to their pensions.
Staff working in government offices – including the sites in Longbenton – took to the picket lines for more than four hours to voice their anger at the changes to their pensions.
Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) were out in force, despite poor weather conditions, before joining up with other unions for a rally at Grey’s Monument in Newcastle from noon.
The action comes after the government said staff would have to pay more towards their pension contribution, despite recent pay freezes.
Similar protests were held last November while the unions recently rejected an offer by the government as part of the negotiations.
More than 80 per cent of the PCS members failed to show for work at the Department for Work and Pensions and HM Revenue and Customs at Longbenton.
Branch secretary Kevin McHugh said: “This is the biggest government site in western Europe with over 9,000 civil servants.
“We’ve had 80 per cent of staff go on strike.
“The average PCS member will have to pay an extra £65 to £70 a month for their pension contribution.
“We’ve just come out of a two-year pay freeze and are getting just a one per cent pay increase next year and another 1 per cent the year after.
“Our members can’t afford that, not with the cost of living increasing.
“When I’m in the supermarket now, I’m having to buy the cheaper brands as the cost has food has gone up.
“Some of our members are now having to sell their cars, but even the cost of public transport is going up.”
He added: “The government say we are all in this economic problem together so why aren’t they taxing the bankers?
“This is nothing more than an extra tax on the public services.”
NewsGuardianTV was at the Longbenton picket line this morning, speaking to striking public sector workers. To see their reactions, click on the video above...