UP TO 750,000 public-sector workers on Thursday took strike action in defence of their pensions, including around 40,000 in Wales.
The action was attacked by Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour Opposition leader Ed Milliband, but MPs and AMs from Port Talbot and throughout Wales gave their backing to the strikers.
Workers who are members of the PCS civil servants union, National Union of Teachers, Association of Teachers and Lecturers and UCU lecturers’ union are angered at what they claim is “daylight robbery” of their pension entitlement by the coalition government in Westminster.
The strike may be the prelude to intensified strike action bringing in up to four million public-sector workers in the autumn after talks between government and unions broke down earlier this week.
Teachers, lecturers and civil servants say the government has already decided to increase their pension contributions, make them work longer and raid their current pension fund to the tune of £2.8 billion regardless of what happens in the negotiations.
Despite the attacks from the main party leaders in Westminster, unions are confident that public opinion will be on their side, and AMs from both Labour and Plaid said they backed the strike and would not cross picket lines in support of the action.
Both MP Hwyel Francis and AM David Rees, who represent Aberavon, have stated their support for the strike this week.
Mr Francis told Port Talbot MagNet: “Public-sector workers’ pensions are being seriously attacked, and I shall be supporting the strike on Thursday. As it happens, my son will be on strike as a teacher.
“I don’t share the same views as Ed Balls and Ed Miliband – I believe it would be better if we didn’t have to have the strike, but it is a legitimate, democratic form of protest, and I endorse those who are registered to go out on strike.
“Industrial action on its own will not achieve a change (in government policy); it will be part of the process. Hopefully we will not have to go that far.”
Speaking after Monday’s meeting with ministers over the government’s plans to cut public sector pensions, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka, who hails from South Wales, said: “This is a dispute that is entirely of the government’s making.
“We did not ask for pensions to be cut, we did not ask for public servants to be told they must work years longer and pay more for much less in retirement.
“Every independent analysis shows that public-sector pensions are affordable now and in the future, and costs are falling in the long term.
“On Thursday we will see hundreds of thousands of civil and public servants on strike, and with the experience of the last few months of government obstinacy, we fully expect to be joined by millions more in the autumn.”