Mass strike closed schools and disrupted public services

ON STRIKE -- a picket line at King's Mill Hospital, Sutton-in-Ashfield
ON STRIKE -- a picket line at King's Mill Hospital, Sutton-in-Ashfield

SCHOOLS were deserted, council offices shut and services slashed as the biggest strike in a generation impacted heavily on the Dispatch district on Wednesday (November 30).

From teachers and dinner ladies to ambulance workers and nurses, members of 30 trade unions took part in the mass nationwide walkout.

In total, more than 60,000 public-sector staff are estimated to have taken part in the industrial action in Nottinghamshire, including hundreds in Hucknall and Bulwell.

Even the Dispatch district’s top tourist attraction, Newstead Abbey, which is owned by Nottingham City Council, wasn’t spared and had to close for the day.

The crux of the dispute is government proposals to tinker with pension plans.

It says change is needed to cut costs to the taxpayer. It claims there is a good deal on the table and the strike was the “height of irresponsibility”.

Hucknall’s Conservative MP, Mark Spencer, said: “I want to pay tribute to those who crossed the picket lines and went into work and grafted all day. Credit to them.

“It is very sad the unions decided to call the strike before we finished the negotiations. I think we should be talking round a table, not waving placards at each other.”

But Ivan Wels, joint secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) in Nottinghamshire, said the government was “committing an act of daylight robbery” on pensions.

Now a warning has been issued by the union, Unison, that the strike might not be the last unless action is taken by the Conservative and Lib Dem coalition to broker a deal on pensions.

Helen Black, regional secretary for Unison, said: “We are not ruling out further escalated action and have told our members that one day might not be enough.”

Wednesday’s strike caused havoc for hundreds of families throughout the Dispatch district as they had to arrange emergency childcare in the light of most schools locking their doors.

Casualties included the area’s three biggest schools — Hucknall National Church Of England Academy on Annesley Road, Holgate Comprehensive School on Nabbs Lane, Hucknall, and Bulwell Academy off Hucknall Lane — which all remained closed to pupils.

Most primary schools were also forced to close as many teachers stayed away. Some joined a mass protest march in Nottingham city centre.

Only a select few schools locally managed to stay open with a skeleton staff.

Ashfield District Council had to scrap its bin-emptying schedule, which will cause a backlog for residents. It also had to lock up its office on Watnall Road in Hucknall.

Some staff from Nottinghamshire police joined the industrial action but bosses say the impact was kept to a minimum in Hucknall and Bulwell.

East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS), which has a station on Annesley Road in Hucknall, also maintained its emergency service, despite some staff shortages and the need to axe all non-urgent patient-transfers.

Service was disrupted at Bulwell JobCentre Plus on Bulwell High Road, although it remained open, and some care homes and day centres — including the Marlstones, on Aldgate Close, Bulwell, and Bestwood Day Centre in Bulwell — also had to shut.

Hucknall Library on Market Place wasn’t affected because it is closed on Wednesdays any way but the county-council-run library at Edgewood Primary School in the town was closed.

The three SureStart children centres in Hucknall managed to stay open — as did the county council-run Bestwood Country Park.

Despite the dispute, there were no reports of picket lines being set up in Hucknall or Bulwell.