Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Schools Shut by Strikers

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Schools Shut by Strikers

Article excerpt

Byline: DICK MURRAY;MATHEUS SANCHEZ

500,000 pupils are turned away .

Pickets also hit libraries, courts

Tower Bridge staff walk out too

MORE than half a million children in London and the South-East were affected today as a strike by council workers shut hundreds of schools.

City Hall was closed and libraries, sports centres, courts, refuse collections, some crematoriums and even the Thames Barrier were hit by the 24-hour stoppage.

Staff who raise and lower Tower Bridge walked out.

Unison, the largest of several unions involved, claimed more than one million local authority employees across the country answered the call to protest at changes to their pension rights.

Schools bore the brunt of the action as caretakers, cooks, cleaners and office staff went on strike.

A "large number" of schools closed in central London, including the one attended by Tony Blair's youngest child Leo. Unison said schools in Camden, Islington, Barnet, Waltham Forest, Southwark, Bromley and Westminster were the worst affected. Pickets were on duty

outside council offices, universities, day centres, museums and other local authority buildings.

It was claimed that women made up the bulk of the strikers with one estimate putting the figure at 800,000 taking part.

City Hall was shut down and Ken Livingstone scrapped his regular press conference after promising not to cross picket lines. Key members of his staff joined the action.

Around half the 650 Greater London Authority staff are believed to be members of Unison, the only recognised union at City Hall.

Strikers outside Kensington and Chelsea town hall were boosted by a visit from Tony Benn. Two of the borough libraries were closed.

The unions reported picket lines "around all town halls" in London.

Refuse depots were closed in Lewisham, Southwark, Waltham Forest and Harrow.

"Support for the strike is solid," said Linda Perks, regional secretary of Unison.

At lunchtime council workers from across London, led by the Unison general secretary David Prentis, took their "strike bus" to Westminster Bridge.

Mr Prentis said the public response to the strike had been tremendous. …

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