MORE than 20 schools across Milton Keynes are expected to be closed tomorrow as teachers join a national strike over pay and pensions.
Hundreds of teaching staff across the city will join thousands of public sector workers including council and hospital staff across the country in what will be biggest national strike in more than 30 years.
The strike is expected to cause childcare problems for parents while some people fear operations may be cancelled.
But NHS Milton Keynes has reassured patients essential and emergency services will not be disrupted with many non-emergency operations delayed weeks ago.
Mark Driver, Head of Urgent Care and Emergency Preparedness, said: “In the event of any industrial action, the NHS has contingency plans in place to ensure quality of patient care is not compromised. Healthcare professionals have always sought to protect their patients and we believe that staff will continue to ensure that patient care is not affected.
“Patient safety and quality of care is our priority and we are working closely with all our partners, including trade union representatives and social care providers, to make sure that we all work together to keep all of our patients, staff and members of the public healthy and safe.”
A spokesman for Milton Keynes Hospital said: “Some unions have balloted their members about strike action on Wednesday, November 30, in response to the government’s proposals to change aspects of the public pension scheme.
“Milton Keynes Hospital does not know how many staff may choose this course of action. The hospital has a duty to provide safe, quality care to patients. To ensure we have as many staff available as possible, leave already booked for the day will be honoured, but no further leave for November 30 has been granted.
“Additionally, in order to ensure that Milton Keynes Hospital can continue to provide safe, quality care to patients, all pre-arranged appointments have been cancelled. This will allow staff to focus on emergency cases. Patients were advised well in advance and have been offered alternative appointments.
“We would also like to remind people to avoid attending Accident and Emergency unless it is a genuine emergency to enable our staff to concentrate on patients most in need of treatment.”
Ann Glover, UNISON’s Eastern Region Head of Local Government, said, “It now seems inevitable that historical industrial action will take place. UNISON will do what we can to protect vital services to the most vulnerable people on the day of action. We call upon the support of the public who can come along to the many marches and rallies being held across the region on the day. Information on what is happening locally is on our website at www.unisoneastern.org.uk.”
Dave Prentis, UNISON’s general secretary, said: “Public sector workers spend their lives providing vital services and care deeply about their communities. They have had their pay frozen and seen rising workloads, as jobs and services are slashed. Now Government ministers are coming for their pensions.
“We are willing to negotiate any time, any place, but we still have no deal that we can put to a single one of these workers. The door is open, it’s time to talk.”