Teesside strikes: Hundreds join Middlesbrough march

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Media captionCancer patient Margaret Toase declined treatment to join a picket line in Middlesbrough

Hundreds of people marched through Middlesbrough in support of striking public sector workers.

Police estimated that around 700, including council staff and teachers, took part Wednesday's protest over changes to pensions.

Among the strikers was cancer patient Margaret Toase, who declined treatment for a brain tumour in favour of joining colleagues on a hospital picket line.

The government wants to change pensions because people are living longer.

Middlesbrough's Transporter Bridge was closed, as were many libraries and leisure centres.

Mrs Toase, a nurse and union activist since 1965, joined the picket line outside Middlesbrough's James Cook Hospital, where she was due to receive treatment for a brain tumour.

She said: "There is no way I am going in there today to receive any treatment when it means crossing a picket line.

"I wouldn't cross any picket for any reason."

In County Durham, 235 of 262 schools were closed, in Darlington 32 of the town's 39 schools and nurseries were closed. In Hartlepool all 37 schools were closed and in Middlesbrough 47 out of 50 were shut.

Middlesbrough Council said services which had an agreed exemption to the strike included cemeteries and crematorium and some staff who work with vulnerable adults and children.

'Business as usual'

Cleveland Police said it drafted in extra staff and cancelled the leave of about 100 officers.

Assistant Chief Constable Sean White said: "While some staff members employed by Cleveland Police, or partners delivering a service to the force who belong to a union, have taken industrial action, our focus has been on business as usual."

Tom Brennan, GMB Regional Secretary, said: "It is about time that the government started to appreciate and praise public sector workers rather than attacking them, vilifying them and kicking them around."

However, in a speech to the Policy Exchange think tank, Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove said it was "unfair and unrealistic" to expect taxpayers to foot the increasing public sector pensions bill.

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