London: Thousands of UK schools and offices
remained closed on Wednesday as one of country`s biggest public
sector strikes in decades got underway that also
threatens to affect the airport passenger traffic.
The 24-hour strike is expected to disrupt hospitals,
courts, job centres, driving tests and council services, such
as libraries, community centres and refuse collections.
Teachers and heads are taking to the picket lines,
affecting almost three in four schools, according to early
Government figures. However, it is feared this number could
Airport officials expected delays at immigration counters
later during the day at Heathrow and other airports in
There were no reports of delays at airports so far, but
chief operating officer Scott Stanley at Gatwick Airport said:
"Whilst passengers have so far not experienced delays at the
border zones we do expect delays to occur at some point today
as the rate of arriving flights increases".
Passengers, who arrived on flights at Heathrow this
morning, said they were through immigration formalities
without any delay.
Many flights from India arrive in the second half of the
day, when delays are expected.
The call for strike has led to Air India cancelling four
flights to London scheduled for today and Jet Airways issuing
advisory asking passengers travelling to the UK to rebook
their flights to avoid any inconvenience.
BAA, which runs Britain`s airports, said last night: "At
this stage, we believe that immigration queues for non-EU
passengers could be contained to within two to three hours".
The strike has been called by public sector employee
unions against changes to pension rules and job losses. MORE
The strike is said to one of the biggest in a generation,
and is expected to see over 1,000 demonstrations across
Speaking from Brussels, Chancellor George Osborne told
BBC: "The strike is not going to achieve anything, it`s not
going to change anything. It is only going to make our economy
weaker and potentially cost jobs".
He added: "So let`s get back round the negotiating table,
let`s get a pension deal that is fair to the public sector,
that gives decent pensions for many, many decades to come but
which this county can also afford and our taxpayers can
"That is what we should be doing today, not seeing these
Dave Prentis, general secretary of union Unison, said
industrial action by his union was rare but public sector
workers "were annoyed".
Millions of workers - mainly low-paid women - were being
unfairly affected by changes to pensions, he said.
The Department for Education said it believed that more
than half of England`s 21,700 state schools (58 per cent) are
closed, with a further 13 per cent partially open.
About 13 per cent are operating as normal, while the rest
(16 per cent) are unknown.