Hundreds of strikers rally in Cornwall over pensions

Hundreds of people attend rallies in Plymouth, Exeter and Truro as teachers and civil servants walk out in a protest over proposed changes to public sector pensions

About 350 people have marched through Truro for a rally as part of a national dispute over pensions.

Eighty eight schools, about 18% of the total, and some tax and benefit offices were hit as hundreds of teachers and civil servants walked out in Cornwall.

The strikes involve members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) and three teaching unions protesting at planned pensions changes.

Prime Minister David Cameron told the Commons there was no case for strikes.

Paul Howard, a teacher from St Minver School in Wadebridge, said at the rally: "I have to work until I am 68, I am 39 at the moment. I didn't intend to work until I am 68 to draw my pension.

"We do need to strike to make sure the government realises we mean business."

Michael Heron, a teacher at Helston Community College, said he believed the strike was setting a good example to the pupils who were missing classes.

"I for one want my students to realise that when you feel strongly about something you should have a debate," he said.

"You don't just impose things on people you negotiate, you talk it through.

"I think our students are supportive of teachers striking. I think they're pleased to see us stand up for something we believe in, and in education, we teach that to our children."

Cornwall Council published a list of school closures and those partially affected.

'Premature' strike

Steven Gilbert, the Liberal Democrat MP for Newquay and St Austell, said he thought the strike was "premature".

He added: "The government is still in negotiations with the Trades Union Congress.

"There's more dates in the diary. It's putting the cart before the horse slightly for people to be on strike at the moment."

Picket lines have been formed at the St Austell and Redruth HM Revenue and Customs buildings, Cornwall College at its Camborne and St Austell campuses, and Truro College.

Owen Harris, from the University and College Union, said: "Our philosophy is to work with people. The government aren't listening so we had to make a stand. We've reached the point where there is nothing left."

The Conservative MP for Camborne and Redruth George Eustice said: "There are some very difficult issues the country has to tackle. We've got to get these things right. We do want to work with people."

'Fair to taxpayers'

Jim McDonald, a senior representative of the PCS union, believes members felt they had no choice but to strike.

"They're very angry and upset, and extremely disappointed that they've been pushed to the point that they have no option but to take industrial action of this sort."

Newquay Airport is expected to avoid disruption and the Torpoint Ferry and Tamar Bridge between Devon and Cornwall will be unaffected.

Addressing Parliament during prime minister's questions, Mr Cameron said: "What we are proposing is fair.

"It is fair to taxpayers but it is also fair to the public sector because we want to continue strong public sector pensions."

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