PUBLIC sector workers across East Lancashire walked out yesterday as part of the largest general strike in a decade.
Services were disrupted across the county as several trade unions co-ordinated industrial action to take place on the same day.
Teachers and other school staff, council workers, librarians, civil servants including job centre employees, firefighters and court staff were among those who went on strike, in a series of disputes with the government over pay, pensions, job losses and spending cuts.
NUT officials say around 60 per cent of schools in the area were affected.
Staff gathered on the picketline outside Darwen Vale school, which stayed open, early yesterday. Simon Jones from the NUT said: “Teachers are working more than 60 hours a week and it’s just unsustainable.
“Although Darwen Vale is open a lot of the pupils haven’t gone in, or have taken stickers in saying they support the teachers.”
In Blackburn and Darwen only 28 schools stayed open, with eight partially closed and 30 closed completely. Lancashire County Council reported that 57 of its schools were either fully or partially closed.
Unions including the GMB, Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), Unison, and Unite gathered outside Blackburn Town Hall for a rally and strikers from across the county also rallied in Preston as part of a march organised by the TUC.
In Blackburn and Darwen there was disruption to council services, including leisure centres, children’s centres and youth services and all libraries were closed. Denise Wilkins, Unison branch secretary for staff from Blackburn Council, said: “It’s about sending a message to the government that enough is enough.
“They can’t keep cutting funding to councils and expect services to keep on running.” Ros Shepherd, Unite branch secretary said: “There are lots of women working for the council who are on low pay, school support staff, cleaning staff, and they’re having to claim supplementary benefits to put a roof over their heads.”
Libraries were closed in Clayton-le-Moors, Great Harwood, Oswaldtwistle, Rishton, Crawshawbooth, Haslingden, Rawtenstall, Nelson, Eccleston, Euxton and Clitheroe. Burnley Campus, Whitworth and Burnley libraries were open for reduced hours and 15 other East Lancashire libraries were closed totally.
A county council spokesperson said: "There is some disruption but we're continuing to provide services to the vulnerable.”
Burnley Crown Court was closed and Preston Crown Court was running a severely reduced service.
Four fire stations were closed completely in Padiham, Earby, Haslingden, and Great Harwood.