International

One-Day Public Sector Strike Disrupts Classes In U.K.

People march past the Houses of Parliament with placards as they take part in a protest to mark the nationwide day of strikes in London. i i

People march past the Houses of Parliament with placards as they take part in a protest to mark the nationwide day of strikes in London. Matt Dunham/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Matt Dunham/AP
People march past the Houses of Parliament with placards as they take part in a protest to mark the nationwide day of strikes in London.

People march past the Houses of Parliament with placards as they take part in a protest to mark the nationwide day of strikes in London.

Matt Dunham/AP

The unions and the government disagree on just how big the public sector walk-out in the United Kingdom today is. The unions are saying hundreds of thousands of public workers have joined the strike, but the British government says its borders and air travel have been unaffected.

The Guardian reports that some 11,000 schools, however, have "either closed or cancelled lessons" because of the strike. The Guardian says the number of workers who joined the strike could be as high as 750,000 across the country.

As we reported yesterday, the strikes are just the latest protest against austerity measures in the country. They're also one in a string of protests that other European countries — most recently Greece — have seen.

The Wall Street Journal says the strikes are in response to a British government proposal that would raise the retirement age and ask workers to contribute more toward their pensions in order to ease the taxpayer burden:

Female state workers who retired in the 1950s would be expected to spend around 30% of their adult life in retirement as opposed to the 45% they would now, increasing the cost for the tax payer.

But public-sector unions, whose members are already angry at a pay freeze and some 300,000 planned job cuts, say the Conservative-led government is trying for ideological reasons to undercut the public sector.

"The brutal truth is simply this: The burden of deficit reduction is being piled unfairly onto millions of low and medium-paid public sector workers who did nothing to cause the crash," Brendan Barber, the secretary general of the TUC, said on his union's website.

The Independent called the strike the biggest in five years and reports that some 20,000 people took part in a rally in London that marched past the Prime Minister's residence on Downing street and passed in front of Parliament.