In U.K.: Public Servants Staging Biggest Strike In A Generation

“A huge spectrum” of government workers in the United Kingdom are striking today to show their anger over austerity plans.

As NPR’s Philip Reeves told Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep earlier, “teachers, lecturers, immigration staff, tax officials, ambulance crews, midwifes, road sweepers, weather forecasters, librarians and many more” are planning to take part in what’s being called Britain’s biggest general strike in a generation.

They’re angry about some of the austerity measures the British government plans as it responds to the ripple effects of the financial and budget crises that have swept across much of Europe.

“In a nutshell,” Philip said, “Britain’s government has told public servants that they must pay more for their pensions and work for longer.” And, that their pensions will be based on their “career average salary rather than the final salary.”

The strike’s effects are sweeping.

According to the BBC, “thousands of schools are closed and hospital operations have been cancelled. Courts and government offices are among disrupted services. … In Northern Ireland, no bus or train services are operating. … London Ambulance Service … is ‘struggling.’ “

The Guardian says “more than 2 million public sector workers” are on strike, “closing schools and bringing councils and hospitals to a virtual standstill.” More than 30 unions are involved. It could be “the biggest stoppage in more than 30 years and was comparable to the last mass strike by 1.5 million workers in 1979. Hundreds of marches and rallies are due to take place in cities and towns across the country.”

Today’s news has even touched Philip’s family in London. “Students are always ahead of the game in these matters,” he told Steve. “My daughter, for example, has been well aware that there’s a strike and has been planning her day — and that day does not involve going to school.”

“Although she won’t know how to dress because the weather forecasters are on strike as well,” Steve noted.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.