British Civil Workers Strike Over Retirement Age Dispute

Public sector workers shut down schools, council offices and other services across Britain on Tuesday in a one-day strike over a pension dispute.

An estimated 400,000 workers took part in the walkout, called by the country's largest trade unions, the Local Government Association said.

The unions were protesting plans to scrap provisions that allow workers to retire at 60 if they have 25 years of service.

The strike closed more than 600 schools in Scotland, libraries in Wales, and shut down bus and rail transport in Northern Ireland.

The Unison union, one of the leaders of the strike, said it also forced closures of local council offices in and around London.

At Leeds-Bradford Airport in northern England, workers agreed to limit their action to a two-hour closure of the runway at midday. Heathrow and other big London airports, operated by a private company, were not affected by the strike.

The Local Government Association contended that the strike's impact was limited, with only a quarter of the 1.6 million local council employee potentially involved taking part.

"The low turnout across most of England shows that union leaders are out of touch with the majority of their membership," said the association's chairman, Sir Sandy Bruce Lockhart.

"With just one in eight local government workers having voted for strike action it is clear that the unions have no mandate for industrial action."

He said the unions' desire to stop changes to the local government pension scheme would lead to a yearly 2 percent increase of local tax.

"The unions must realize that the council taxpayer simply cannot keep paying more."