Half the borough's schools closed by strikesBy Caroline Cook
November 30, 2011
Nearly half the borough’s schools are set to close today as thousands of public sector workers go on strike in a row over pensions.
Thames Valley Police officers, Wokingham Borough Council staff and healthcare workers are also expected to go on strike as workers fight against having to work longer and pay more into their pensions.
A total of 26 primary and secondary schools in the Wokingham borough are expected to be closing their doors as teachers leave the classroom for the day in protest.
Bulmershe School in Woodley, Maiden Earley School in Lower Earley, The Piggott School in Twyford and Waingels College in Woodley were all due to close today.
The Emmbrook School in Emmbrook and The Holt School in Wokingham will be open for sixth form pupils only, while The Forest School in Winnersh will be open for sixth form pupils in the morning and St Crispin’s School, also in Wokingham will be open for sixth form and Year 11 pupils.
Councillor Rob Stanton, executive member for education, said: “I never support strikes. I think there is always a better way of resolving disputes.
“Even after it is done you have to sit down and resolve it and why not do that before.
“I think strikes are the action of the desperate and the losers in this are the children.
“It is disruptive to families and it means we have to do things like cancel all the school dinners and cancel the transport.”
The Wokingham and district division of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) has 527 members and a large number were predicted to be joining the strikes, although exact figures would not be known until the day.
Robert Wilkinson, secretary for the Wokingham and district division of the NUT, said: “It is extremely important because it shows that the Government is really quite intransigent.
“The negotiations have been going on since February and they are not very fair at all.”
Mr Wilkinson said it was not feasible for teachers to work until their late 60s and he said there were fears among teachers that extra contributions to pensions would be absorbed into the Government’s funds and be spent in other areas.
He said: “I think there will be quite a number of people who will be striking, particularly people in their 30s and 40s. A lot of teachers in their 20s probably don’t appreciate how exhausting teaching is, but in your 40s and 50s it takes so much energy to do the job and many are having to go part-time.
“If you are required to teach until you are 68 it is not physically possible, any more than it is for the police or an airline officer.”
Inspector Peter Oliphant, deputy Wokingham area commander, said there are some members of Thames Valley Police staff who are part of Unison, one of the major trade unions which voted for strike action, but the force was not expecting any changes to policing in Wokingham.
Wokingham Borough Council said it did not know how many council staff would be striking until today but services were expected to be running as normal.
A spokesman for the council said: “As far as we are aware it is business as usual.
“There might be some members of staff off and initially managers sent round emails asking if people are going to strike so they could plan accordingly.
“The libraries are open as well as things like day centres.”
Some council services, including waste collection, are contracted out to private firms meaning they will not be affected by the industrial action.
A spokesperson for NHS Berkshire West has also said that services should be running as normal and patients will still have access to the full range of primary care services from their local GP surgery.
Each GP surgery will have made arrangements to ensure surgeries are open even if staff chose to strike.