Walkout 'too early' and a 'mistake' insists Ed Miliband

THE government has claimed that the biggest public-sector strike in five years had just "a minimal impact" despite thousands of schools closing in England and disruption in courts, job centres and government offices.

Hundreds of thousands of teachers, lecturers, civil servants and other workers walked out in protest at controversial changes to their pensions, which they attacked as "unfair and unjust".

But even as many of them took to the streets in marches up and down the UK, they were condemned by Labour leader Ed Miliband for hitting services and going out on strike too early. Mr Miliband described the one-day strike as a "mistake", risking the wrath of the unions who made sure he won the party leadership contest last year.

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The effect of the strike was patchy with 11,114 of the 21,500 state schools closed or part closed. In London 90 per cent of Metropolitan Police call handlers failed to turn up to work. All the national museums in Wales were closed. Only 18 of the 750 Jobcentre Plus offices and courts and airports remained open.

But Mark Serwotka, leader of the Public and Commercial Services union, predicted that up to four million workers could be involved in strikes in the autumn if the bitter row is not resolved.

He said: "The government has been rumbled, and ministers are either badly briefed - or they are lying.

"Robert Maxwell robbed private-sector pensions, now this government is trying to rob public-sector pensions."

But Cabinet office minister Francis Maude said: "What today has shown is that the vast majority of hard working public-sector employees do not support today's premature strike and have come into work.

"I want to thank them all for coming in, ignoring the pickets and putting the public first.

"I am not at all surprised by the very low turnout for today's action - less than half of PCS's own members chose to take part. Very few civil servants wanted this strike at all - less than 10 per cent of them voted for it - and they are right.

"It is simply wrong for their leader to be pushing for walkouts when serious talks, set up at the request of the TUC itself, are still ongoing."