THOUSANDS of public sector workers are to march through Edinburgh on a day of strike action that is set to close schools and cause major disruption throughout the city.
Union bosses claim more than 30,000 members in Edinburgh will take industrial action on November 30 as part of the nationwide walkout over changes to their state pensions.
The move is expected to have a huge impact on services provided by all four Lothians councils, along with NHS Lothian and schools and universities, even though it takes place on St Andrew’s Day.
Thousands will march down the Royal Mile to the Scottish Parliament as part of demonstrations planned by the Trades Union Congress.
Members of Unison – which represents 9000 city council workers and more than 8000 NHS Lothian staff – yesterday voted in favour of striking against the Westminster government’s plans to make employees work longer and pay more into their own pension.
The Educational Institute of Scotland – which has 8000 members in the Lothians – was expected to return a result from teachers and lecturers today to join the proposed strike.
Members of the University and College Union have already balloted to strike and all four city universities are likely to see some disruption.
The industrial action will see schools across the Lothians closed and health services including the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and St John’s Hospital operating reduced services.
Des Loughney, secretary of the Edinburgh Trade Union Council, which is organising the march, said: “It’s a big decision to take this kind of action, but people are keen to make their point to the government.
“There are over 20 unions balloting for action on that day to protest over what the government is doing to their pensions.
“This event will be for Fife, Falkirk, the Lothians and down to the Borders, and we reckon there will be around 70,000 balloting for action on that day, so there may be that number involved in some form of action.”
He added: “The schools will be shut but I think the public will understand that because the future of the education service is linked to pensions, and the health service operates on a Sunday service once a week anyway, so I don’t think that will be to the detriment of patients.”
Although Unison said it will negotiate until the last minute, the Westminster government has made it clear that it wants public sector employees to work longer and pay more.
However, it argues that for most staff, pensions will remain the same, and some will even receive a better deal.
City council leader Jenny Dawe told the Evening News: “While we would be disappointed if council staff took part in any strike action, we respect their right to do so.
“Our priority will be to secure life and limb support for council clients and minimise disruption to other essential services.”