Some public sector workers in Medway joined strike action today in a dispute over pensions.
Staff at MidKent College, Gillingham, and Cookham Wood Prison, Rochester, are among those who joined the 24-hour protest to oppose plans which, according to trade unions, could see staff working until they are 68.
Banners were attached to lampposts at MidKent College’s campus in Medway Road and staff were there with placards and leaflets. Students were told to turn up as normal, but warned that they could face disruption to classes.
Stuart Dane, a technician at the college and chair of the University and College Union, said: "The reason we are striking is because the pensions are being taken and ruined for people that work really hard in education.
"We are trying to safeguard pensions for the future. It is frustrating when you work for as many years as I have – you expect to get the money back."
Darren Brunskill, committee member of the Prison Officers Association, is one of around 20 members of staff striking from Cookham Wood Prison today.
He said: “We are going to have to pay more for our pensions and work longer for them. It is absolutely abhorrent.
“Cookham Wood can be dangerous and it doesn’t have a good reputation with staff being injured and they want OAPs aged 68 working there and facing the dangers everyday from 15 to 18 year olds who are over 6ft tall.”
Striking staff at Elmley Prison on the Isle of Sheppey led to the Chatham Hill murder trial being put on hold.
Proceedings at Maidstone Crown Court, which is hearing evidence from a car salesman accused of murdering his wife, son and father-in-law, were delayed for more than two hours today (Thursday) when he didn’t show up.
The car salesman, Danai Muhammadi, 24, of Britannia Street, Coventry, had still not been put in a prison van more by 10.45am.
The same was true of co-defendant Farhad Mahmud, 35, of Fernhill Road, Maidstone.
The High Court judge presiding over the trial showed his frustration, saying: “I had no idea of this happening yesterday”.
Mr Justice Sweeney told the jury: “Because of the industrial action the two male defendants have not been released by the prison service to the transport service to bring them here.
“I have ordered that they be brought here. The transport is standing by.”