'We're being made scapegoats for mistakes of the wealthy'
HUNDREDS of workers took part in a march and rally in Bristol to protest over public sector pension reforms.
Hospital staff, university and college lecturers, government workers and those in the civil service held pickets yesterday and then moved inside to Armada House in Telephone Avenue.
In Bristol, members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), members of UNITE and the University and College Union (UCU) joined together at the indoor rally.
The PCS said there was solid support for the strike, the third major walkout by public sector employees in the past six months in protest at the pension reforms.
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Prison officers also joined the walk-out, with their union warning that raising their retirement age would be dangerous.
Prison Officers Association national chairman Peter McParlin said: "We are an essential uniformed service in a volatile operational workplace. A pension age of 68 is unacceptable to this trade union.
"We have a right to retire from service, not to die in service".
Protests across the country were fuelled by ministers making clear in the Queen's Speech this week that they are pressing ahead with controversial pension reforms.
The government say the cost of funding public sector pensions is "unsustainable" in the current economic climate.
It wants workers to pay more into their pensions and work for longer, and to base pay-outs on their average salary over a career rather than the current final salary arrangement.
Protesters taking part in the rally argued they were being made the scapegoat for the mistakes of the wealthy.
Karen Cole, Unite's south west health sector women's and equalities organiser, said: "Unite health sector members from across Bristol joined the picket line outside the Bristol Royal Infirmary in the city and marched to a rally to demonstrate against the highway robbery of their pensions by this government.
"Many of Unite's NHS members are now paying, on average, an extra £30-a-month from last month for their pensions, at a time when pay has been frozen. It is a disgrace that Unite members working in the NHS have to work longer, pay more and get less.
"Yesterday they showed the government that they won't put up with this attack on their retirement incomes. We have sent out a strong message for ministers to get around the table once more and negotiate for a fair pensions settlement."
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude described the strike as "futile" and insisted that talks over pensions will not be reopened.
He said the total of 102,244 civil servants on strike was down from 146,000 in November.