HUNDREDS of striking public sector workers brought the streets of Eastbourne to a standstill as they demonstrated against Government plans to make them work longer and pay more towards their pensions.
More than a dozen unions were represented at Wednesday’s town centre rally, which started on the seafront before heading into the main shopping area.
The majority of passers-by seemed in full support of their protest with many clapping and cheering the marchers as they passed by.
Just a handful of passers-by voiced their disapproval by booing or hurling abuse at the marching teachers, council workers and ambulance staff.
An online Herald poll, which was completed by more than 2,000 people this week, showed 51 per cent backed the strike action, while 68 per cent blamed the Government for the day-long walk out.
Public sector staff made the decision to strike amid an ongoing dispute over changes to their pensions. The Coalition Government wants those employed by the state to increase their annual contributions while delaying drawing their pension until they reach 67. in line with mooted changes to the state pay-out.
Many who spoke to the Herald said they had wrestled with their conscience long and hard over whether or not to down tools, but decided that in the long run it was important to make a stand.
Dave Brinson, a teacher at Ratton School who helped organise the strike in Eastbourne, was delighted with the numbers who came to the rally. He said, “Considering a lot of people went to Brighton where there were national speakers, to get so many here is brilliant.
“We are not a militant bunch but we can only be pushed too far.”
And he reiterated his belief the public sector pension pot was sustainable and the Government was merely using the mooted increase as a “secret tax” to help pay off the deficit.
“In an economic crisis,” he continued. “It is not morally right or fair to dip into our pensions to help out the bankers.”
He added the unions were more than happy to negotiate towards an agreement, but the strike action had been reluctantly called because many workers felt they were not being listened to.
Mr Brinson, who has taught in Eastbourne for 10 years, said the sheer numbers of people who joined the picket lines showed the strength of feeling locally.
A short rally was held in the seafront bandstand, during which Christine Lewis, of UNISON, accused Government minister Michael Gove of behaving like sci-fi baddie, the Emperor.
“I may have been watching too much Star Wars,” she said, “but it seems like a Death Star is pointed at the public service.”