TODAY’S strike will have a major impact on the country. So what are the issues behind it?
• Why are so many people striking?
The Coalition wants to change the pensions for public sector works. The Government say the cost of funding these pensions is unsustainable and something the cash-strapped country can no longer afford. The Government wants people to contribute more into their pension pots, work extra years and accept a pension based on their average career wage, rather than the one they finish on.
What is so controversial about that?
Public sector workers would have to wait longer to get their occupational pension – which they would get at the same time as their state pension. The age when people can get it could be put back to 66. Unions also say that on average workers will have to stump up an extra 3.2 per cent more in yearly contributions, although those earning less than £18,000 would see their pension payments capped at 1.5 per cent.
• Who is taking part in the strike locally?
The day of action has been organised by the Trades Union Congress and in Eastbourne those expected to join in include teachers, nurses, council workers, police support staff, other NHS workers like physiotherapists, and bin men.
So who is for the strike and who’s against?
Quite simply, the battle ground has been drawn on predictably political grounds. The Coalition, including Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd, have spoken out against the strikes and although Labour bigwigs like Ed Balls have raised concerns about how much cash it will cost the UK economy (estimates range up to £500million). Grassroots Labour supporters are backing it.
• And what do the unions want?
Bosses are unhappy that the details of the proposals were leaked by the Government while negotiations are still ongoing. They are against their members having to pay more toward their pensions while being asked to stay in work longer.
• Can the two sides compromise?
Well, the Government thinks it has. Last month it offered a new deal which would guarantee that all workers who are within ten years of retiring would not have to work longer and would also have their pension income protected.
Teachers are striking – what can I do if my child is at home but I am expected to go to work?
This is the burning issue for many people with the majority of schools in Eastbourne expected to close today.
All employees have the right to take time off to care for a child if it is an emergency, but whether your boss considers this such an occasion could depend on how much notice your child’s school has given you.
David Cameron is encouraging businesses to be understanding and let parents bring their kids into work with them if at all possible.