Strikes hit Spen Valley

Unison strikes with support staff at Birkenshaw Fire HQ. (d30111105)
Unison strikes with support staff at Birkenshaw Fire HQ. (d30111105)

MASS national strikes hit the Spen Valley forcing schools to close, a reduction in council services and picket lines springing up across the district.

Spen’s three high schools were closed to pupils on Wednesday, along with nearly 20 primary schools, during a day of strike action against sweeping changes to public sector pensions.

Unions were out in force, with marches and protests taking place in Huddersfield and Dewsbury.

Cleckheaton town hall was closed for the day, as council staff stayed away.

Bin collections were cancelled, adult care and home care services were running at the minimum level and other services were reduced.

The Driving Standards Agency said that the only scheduled driving test went ahead on Wednesday at its Heckmondwike Test Centre, where nearly a third of examiners had walked out. West Yorkshire Fire Service support staff formed a placard-waving picket line outside their headquarters in Birkenshaw, led by shop steward Dave Spink.

Mr Spink said that the pension changes would hit part-time support staff hardest.

Opinion among councillors was mixed, with Kirklees Council leader Coun Mehboob Khan supporting the day of action.

Lib Dem leader and Coun Kath Pinnock (Cleckheaton) said she hoped further negotiations could take place to resolve the matter without further strikes.

Tory leader Coun Robert Light (Birstall and Birkenshaw) told unions to ‘stop playing silly games’.

He said: “I think it has been a disaster for the public sector and it hasn’t solved anything.

“What we need is for the unions to stop playing politics and get around the table to sort this mess out.”