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Unions the PCS, Unite, GMB and FBU in march and rally in Canterbury over pay and conditions

By KentOnline reporter

Unions have today joined forces in Canterbury for a rally and march over pay, conditions and pensions.

It is part of a nationwide day of action involving the PCS, Unite, GMB and FBU unions.

Teachers and about 50 members of the NUT marched through the streets of Canterbury, waving banners and chanting "no ifs, no buts, no public sector cuts."

Strikers marching through the streets of Canterbury

Unite claims the protest follows several years of pay freezes for its members, which has allegedly sent the pay packets of local government and school workers plummeting back to levels of the 1990s.

They claim council workers have been left struggling to get by, with some relying on food banks and second jobs to get by.

Meanwhile firefighters in the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) have been holding a series of strikes over several months in a dispute over pensions.

An NUT spokesman said they are striking over five issues, primarily to “remove an excessive workload and pointless bureaucracy".

They also want to be rid of performance-related pay and reverse “unfair” pension changes because “teachers cannot work until 68”.

Unions united for the rally

The union argues more teacher are needed and the government needs to listen to teachers on new policies.

In Gravesend, Jackie Denton, Unison Branch Secretary, said her union was angry at the low pay offer.

She said: “The cost of living has gone up and yet they’re offering us 1% again.

“Lots of people have left Unison and they have not been replaced. We now have more work to cover and I think it’s time we made a stand.

“It is crazy that we are in employment and we are struggling, it is not fair.”

“If I want to leave my car in the car park then I technically have to pay to work" - Nicola Howard

Nicola Howard, 42, Customer Services Union (CSU) representative, also said members were struggling.

She said: "The cost of everything has gone up – tax, transport, gas and electricity prices

have all increased.

“If I want to leave my car in the car park then I technically have to pay to work.

“We’ve had an influx of calls following the new recycling scheme and we just have not got enough staff.”

Video: Protesters march on Canterbury over pay and conditions

In Kent, five out of the 456 schools are closed today, with a further nine partly closed. The are:

Bower Grove School
Chartham Primary School
Laleham Gap School
Rowhill School
St Anthony's School

Partially open
Chislet Church of England Primary School
Herne Bay Infant School
Northfleet School for Girls
Sedley's Church of England Voluntary Controlled Primary School
St Peter-in-Thanet CofE Junior School
The Charles Dickens School
West Hill Primary School
Westmeads Community Infant School
Wrotham Road Primary School

At least 12 schools in Medway will be closed or partially closed as public sector workers go on strike.

Meanwhile, workers will also on strike at Kent's courts.

Roy Muller, the PCS chairman at Canterbury Crown Court said: "For many years the court staff have been totally committed to serving the public.

"My members work long hours, often working above and beyond their grade.

"We do this because we believe that the British justice system is the best in the world and we are proud to be part of it."

Mr Muller said many members of the union had not come out on strike "because they cannot afford to lose a day's pay".

He said that since the pay freeze in 2010, staff wages had fallen by £2,300 as well as having to pay extra pension contributions.

Mr Muller added: "In the county of Charles Dickens, it is ironic that all we can see are hard times ahead. We need and deserve a rise now."

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