Sheffield prepares for big walkout

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PUBLIC services across Sheffield, ranging from hospitals to libraries, will be hit next Wednesday on the Day of Action over Government pension reforms.

Staff will walk out as the city becomes a focal point for an anti-Government protest. A rally will be held in Barkers Pool at noon, with trade unions coming from across South Yorkshire, followed by a march through the city centre.

“We expect it to be one of the biggest demonstrations seen in Sheffield for a very long time,” said Martin Mayer, president of Sheffield Trades Council. “There really is a strength of feeling building up on what the Government is doing.”

The one-day strike was being seen not only as a response to the “severe” attack on public sector pensions, but also as a public spending cut, said Mr Mayer.

It will potentially hit all services provided by the council, such as libraries, social services and planning, after Unison, the biggest union at the Town Hall, voted to join the walkout. There are 12,000 staff at the council, around half in a union.

Council chief executive John Mothersole said: “Clearly there is a lot of trade union support for next week’s strike and it will have some impact on council services. We will closely monitor the effects... but it is unlikely that we will be able to offer a business as usual service across the board. We have well-rehearsed contingency plans in place and in these circumstances our priority is always to those who depend on us the most.”

Health service managers will ensure emergency care, including chemotherapy and dialysis, when health workers and administrative and domestic staff walk out.

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Trust, which runs the Northern General, Royal Hallamshire, Weston Park, Jessop Wing and Charles Clifford hospitals, will cancel all outpatient clinics and non-urgent operations.

The Children’s Hospital will offer a reduced service.

South Yorkshire Police have drawn up plans in response to the prospect of civilian workers – about one-third of the force – walking out. All calls will be responded to, said a spokesman.

Bin collections in Sheffield – no longer run by the council – will not be affected and members of the Fire Brigades Union are not participating in the strike.

The Government says the pension reforms will still leave public sector workers better off than most in the private sector and will be fairer to taxpayers. The strike has been described by Chancellor George Osborne as “deeply irresponsible”.

Unions say their members are being asked to contribute more and work longer to compensate for the failures of the financial system.