Mass Strikes cause disruption

STRIKE: Public sector workers from Stonehaven sheriff court at their picket line yesterday.
STRIKE: Public sector workers from Stonehaven sheriff court at their picket line yesterday.

ACROSS Scotland yesterday (Wednesday November 30) the biggest public sector strike in nearly a century saw an estimated 300,000 public sector workers take to the Streets in protest over pension changes.

A number of unions including teaching unions and UNISON took part in the strikes to protest changes to pensions.

Schools closed, the borders were under staffed, hospitals had to cancel appointments and rubbish collections were cancelled.

Councils across the country were assuring the public that all emergency calls would be answered as normal.

Business leaders feared that yesterdays strikes will cost the economy £500 million.

The strike has had an impact on everyone in some way or another and in the Stonehaven area the story is no different.

Services in the Stonehaven area that were closed on Wednesday included all of the 172 Schools and 88 nurseries in the area.

Attempts were made by Aberdeenshire Council to keep most other services running as normal however some services were disrupted.

One of the services which was affected by strikes was Stonehaven Sheriff Court where a picket line was set up by staff. Passing cars sounded their horns in support of the group who were gathered at the building’s entrance.

Of the six staff at the Court all were on strike. However the court did deal with two cases as a clerical officer was brought in from Banff.

Two cases is low however for the court which, on a Wednesday, can deal with between 30 and 40 cases. Also fines could not be paid to the court as there were no administrators in the building.

Those outside the court explained that they were concerned for their pensions but that there was another reason they were there.

A spokesperson for the group said: “We are also worried about the future of the Courts. Some courts are going to be closed, this could include Stonehaven.

“We are worried about jobs and also not being able to provide the high level of service we give to the people of Kincardine and Deeside.”

The Scottish court service are currently carrying out a review of all courts in the country. Protesters outside the Court explained that Stonehaven Court has been classed as a “high risk” category for closure due to its close proximity to Aberdeen.

They explained this worried them not only because of the quality of care provided by the court but also the loss of business to the area, looking at the Court building those on the picket line asked “what would happen to it?”

We spoke to people out on the streets about how the strikes were affecting them and whether they support the unions.

One local man said: “It hasn’t really made much difference to my day and I can see why they are striking, but I don’t see either side letting up so my worry is that this will go on and on without there ever being any compromise.”

One mother said: “I support their cause but they have to watch because I think that peoples sympathy, particularly with the Schools closing, will not last.”

Another mother, whose son attends Mill of Forest School, said: “It has disrupted my working day as my son is off school today and I have had to try and make alternative arrangements.”

But she added: “I support the workers and can understand their reasons for going on strike. I just hope it doesn’t go on and on.”

A Stonehaven resident who works for Aberdeen City Council told the Leader: “I think it says a lot that there are unions and people have never gone on strike before who have joined this one.

“People are really angry, and I hope the strikes force the government back to the table to continue discussions because they have done everything in a sneaky way.

“Those who are set to suffer the most include low-earning women such as cleaners and dinnerladies, and they will be in a terrible position.

“I have been working for the council for 30 years, and accepted a lower income on the promise that I would receive a good pension. I am really angry that they have moved the goalposts, and we need to take a stand. I will be joining a picket line later today.”

Those striking in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire attended a rally in Aberdeen City Centre as they took to Union Street to make their voices heard.

Kate Ramsden, Branch Chair of Aberdeenshire UNISON, says ‘Pensions justice is vital. We regret the need to take strike action but we feel we have been left with no choice.

“We do this not just for ourselves but also for our children and grandchildren to make sure that they can have decent pensions when they retire. We support pensions justice for all.”