Schools and Jobcentre hit hardest by strike action

Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union outside the Jobcentre, in Wesley Square
Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union outside the Jobcentre, in Wesley Square

THOUSANDS of parents and jobseekers will be affected most by today’s strike action.

More than half of schools in Hartlepool are closed due to the walk-outs, while the town’s Jobcentre Plus is said to have only a handful of staff working today.

Up to 80 members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union are expected not to show up for work at the Wesley Square employment office.

But Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) bosses say they have plans in place to limit any disruption, with job-hunters being told they do not have to sign on today to receive their money as it will be done automatically. Those on Jobseekers Allowance with part-time work must still attend.

A DWP spokeswoman said: “Wherever possible Jobcentres will remain open to the public. Our contingency plans include prioritising our resources so that we can continue to make payments to our customers as normal. We will also maintain telephone services and where possible face to face services.”

Courts and airports were also expected to be disrupted, but managers were hopeful that any issues would be limited.

Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court has lost its trial court and criminal court, but those in custody will still have their cases heard.

A domestic violence and a youth court is also operating as normal.

Bosses at Durham Tees Valley Airport are confident flights will continue to run on time despite customs staff being in the (PCS) union that is part of the strikes that will see 750,000 teachers and civil servants refuse to work nationwide.

A spokesman said: “There may be some Border Agency staff who are involved, but we do not expect there to be any disruption to our services.

“Flights will be operating as normal.”

The Mail told on Tuesday how more than half of the town’s schools will be closed today in a day of industrial action called by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).

Of the 38 schools in Hartlepool, 20 are closed for the day while a further nine will operate limited lessons led by staff who are not represented by the unions on strike. Six schools are shut in east Durham.

Hartlepool College of Further Education and Hartlepool Sixth Form College are both said to be open today, with striking lecturers replaced for the day.

But Jo Potts, a lecturer at the FE college and its University and College Union (UCU) rep, said there are 80 members of staff at the Stockton Street site who are part of the union and most are expected to walk out.

She is also planning to be part of a picket at the college’s entrance throughout the day along with around 18 fellow staff members.

She said: “The feeling here about pensions is very strong. There are long-serving members of staff here who have been paying into the scheme for many years and just think what they are trying to do is not acceptable.

“They want us to pay £100 more a month in contributions, retire later and change the interest rates. They want us to pay more and get less.”

Many strikers in town are expected to attend a joint union rally in Middlesbrough.

That starts at 11.30am at the Bottle of Notes sculpture near the Mima art gallery.

A spokesman for the National Union of Teachers (NUT) said: “It is unlikely that our members would be picketing outside of schools. But many will be marching in Middlesbrough to show their opposition to what the Government is proposing.”