Höchstgericht bestätigt: Assange darf gegen Auslieferung vorgehen
05. Dezember 2011 11:49

Assange Anfang Dezember bei einer Pressekonferenz in London.

Wikileaks-Gründer wird vorerst nicht nach Schweden ausgeliefert

London – Großbritanniens High Court, das Oberste Zivilgericht, hat WikiLeaks-Gründer Julian Assange die Erlaubnis erteilt, gegen seine Auslieferung nach Schweden Berufung einzulegen. Damit kann der 40 Jahre alte Australier zunächst nicht nach Schweden ausgeliefert werden, wo gegen ihn wegen des Verdachts auf Vergewaltigung ermittelt wird. Das ist der Startschuss für einen langen Berufungsprozess vor dem Supreme Court, dem Obersten Gerichtshof des vereinigten Königreichs.

Assange war am 7. Dezember in Großbritannien festgenommen worden, nachdem er sich der Polizei gestellt hatte. Er wird beschuldigt, eine Frau vergewaltigt und eine andere sexuell belästigt zu haben.

Assange bestreitet die Vorwürfe. Mehrfach hatte er sie als politisch motiviert bezeichnet. Sie seien von Gegnern seiner Geheimnisse aufdeckenden Organisation aufgebracht worden. Der Londoner High Court hatte Anfang November in zweiter Instanz entschieden, dass der 40-jährige Australier von Großbritannien an Schweden ausgeliefert werden darf. (APA)

Archbishop of Canterbury says riots will return unless we reach out to young

UK must rescue those who think they have nothing to lose or face further civil unrest, says Rowan Williams

The archbishop of Canterbury has warned that England risks a repeat of the riots that spread across England this summer unless the government and civil society do more to „rescue those who think they have nothing to lose“.

Warning of „more outbreaks of futile anarchy“, Rowan Williams, called for a renewed effort to reach out to alienated young people during what he described as the „unavoidable austerity ahead“.

In an article for the Guardian, Williams links the disorder spread cross England to the „massive economic hopelessness“ and the prospect of record levels of youth unemployment.

Responding to the findings of the Guardian and London School of Economics research study, based on interviews with 270 rioters, Williams argues: „It isn’t surprising if we see volatile, chaotic and rootless young people letting off their frustration in the kind of destructive frenzy we witnessed in August.“

An overwhelming majority of people interviewed about their involvement in this summer’s riots believe they will be repeated and one in three said they would take part in any future disorder.

Of those rioters questioned for the Reading the Riots study, 81% said they believed the disturbances that spread across England in August would happen again. Two-thirds predicted there would be more riots before the end of 2014.

The research project, which is the only study to involve interviews with hundreds of people who rioted across England, found they were predominantly from the country’s most deprived areas.

The downturn in the economy featured heavily in interviews, with many complaining of falling living standards and worsening employment prospects.

Williams said reading the accounts of rioters in towns and cities across England had given him „enormous sadness“.

Williams writes: „Too many of these young people assume they are not going to have any ordinary, human, respectful relationships with adults – especially those in authority, the police above all. Too many of them inhabit a world in which the obsession with ‚good‘ clothes and accessories – against a backdrop of economic insecurity or simple privation – creates a feverish atmosphere where status falls and rises as suddenly and destructively as a currency market.“

Williams adds: „The big question that Reading the Riots leaves us with is whether, in our current fretful state, with unavoidable austerity ahead, we have the energy to invest what’s needed in family and neighbourhood and school to rescue those who think they have nothing to lose.

„We have to persuade them, simply, that we as government and civil society alike will be putting some intelligence and skill into giving them the stake they do not have. Without this, we shall face more outbreaks of futile anarchy, in which we shall all, young and old, be the losers.“

The archbishop’s intervention comes just a week after George Osborne lowered economic growth forecasts, increased government borrowing and said austerity measures would be extended to 2017.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said on Monday that income inequality among working-age people has risen faster in Britain than in any other rich nation since the mid-1970s.

The Office for Budget Responsibility is predicting 710,000 public sector job losses in the next six years. Last month, official figures revealed the number of unemployed 16- to 24-year-olds had risen to more than 1 million.

Of the rioters interviewed in Guardian/LSE study who were of working age and not in education, 59% were unemployed.

Those questioned were pessimistic about the future, with 29% disagreeing with the statement „life is full of opportunities“ – compared with 13% among the population at large. Eighty-five percent said poverty was an „important“ or „very important“ factor in causing the riots. The general population largely agreed, with 68% saying poverty was a significant cause of the summer unrest. In the aftermath of the August riots, the prime minister, David Cameron, was quick to dismiss the idea that poverty was a factor in the disorder. „These riots were not about poverty,“ he said. „That insults the millions of people who, whatever the hardship, would never dream of making others suffer like this.“

However, the independent panel Cameron set up to take evidence from victims of the riots concluded last week that poverty was an important factor.

It found that more than half of those who had appeared in court proceedings relating to the riots had come from the most deprived 20% of areas in Britain.

The report added to a growing body of evidence about the poverty and alienation that characterised those who took part in the England riots.

Only 51% of rioters interviewed by the Guardian/LSE said they felt „part of British society“ – compared with 92% of the wider population.

Williams also called for a restorative rather than a punitive approach toward those responsible for the looting and rioting four months ago. „Demonising volatile and destructive young people doesn’t help; criminalising them wholesale reinforces the problem.

„Of course crime needs punishment and the limits of acceptable behaviour have to be set. The youth justice system has a good record in restorative justice methods that bring people up sharp against the human consequences of what they have done. We have the tools for something other than vindictive or exemplary penalties.“

He added: “ We may well wince when some describe how the riots brought them a feeling of intense joy, liberation, power. But we have to go on to ask what kind of life it is in which your emotional highs come from watching a shop being torched or a policeman being hit by a brick.“

On the BBC’s Newsnight last night the police minister, Nick Herbert, said he did not accept that the police behaved in the way mentioned by some of the young rioters who told Guardian/LSE researchers about negative experiences at the hands of officers on a regular basis.

„I think there were particular issues about where this kicked off, in Tottenham, that are being investigated at the moment,“ he said. „But I think elsewhere this was much more of copycat action. I think it was about looting.“In relation to the cause of the riots, Herbert said that while the public at large had tended to cite issues such as social breakdown and family breakdown „The rioters themselves were of course much more reluctant to accept responsibility and what they wanted to do was blame others.“

Herbert emphasised that two-thirds of those interviewed said they had been cautioned by police or convicted of an offence in the past.

Asked if he accepted what the interviews suggested about how the police were seen by many of those who took part, he said: „I accept that by the testimony of the peiople who were involved there, they were saying that they dislike the police. I make the point again. These were people who have been in trouble with the police. It is not surprising.“

Occupy London’s anger over police ‚terrorism‘ document

A notice sent out to businesses in the City of London has listed the protest movement among groups such as al-Qaida and Farc

Occupy London activists are angered at a police document that lists them with terrorist organisations. Photograph: Matt Dunham/AP

Police have angered Occupy London activists after listing the movement among terrorist groups in an advisory notice sent to the business community in the City.

The document issued by City of London police, headed „Terrorism/extremism update for the City of London business community“, included a detailed account of recent and upcoming Occupy London activities and was sent to „trusted partners“ in the area.

The document, dated 2 December, which was passed on to Occupy London’s Finsbury square encampment over the weekend by a local business owner, gave an update on foreign terrorist activities including that of Farc in Columbia, al-Qaida in Pakistan and the outcome of a trial into the Minsk bombing in Belarus.

Below that, a section headed „Domestic“ was dedicated wholly to the activities of the Occupy encampments and singled out anti-capitalists as a cause for concern.

„As the worldwide Occupy movement shows no sign of abating, it is likely that activists aspire to identify other locations to occupy, especially those they identify with capitalism.“

The document stated that police had „received a number of hostile reconnaissance reports concerning individuals who would fit the anti-capitalist profile“, and asked businesses to be vigilant for further sign of occupation activity.

It also said that the number of protesters present at the camp remained „fairly consistent“ but that demonstrations originating from the camp had „decreased and lacked the support and momentum of earlier actions“.

The City of London police have as yet been unwilling to reveal how many businesses were included on the mailing but their list is thought to include large multinationals and banks.

A City of London police source admitted that the „title of the document was not helpful“ and denied that it labelled or intended to label the Occupy movement as equivalent to al-Qaida.

An activist from the camp called the document „vulgar“ and said Occupy London had met Church of England representatives many times in the past and were meeting the Financial Services Authority, which regulates banking activity in the UK, on Monday.

A statement from the Occupy London camp said: „The reference to ’suspected activists‘ seems to demonstrate a disturbing loss of perspective.

„Activism is not a crime and the desire to participate in democratic decision-making should not be a cause for concern for the police in any free society.

„An institution that confuses active citizens with criminals and equates al-Qaida with efforts to re-imagine the City is an institution in grave danger of losing its way.“

Asked about the document, the City of London police said their community policing methods had been praised.

A spokesman added: „City of London police works with the community to deter and detect terrorist activity and crime in the City in a way that has been identified nationally as good practice.

„We’ve seen crime linked to protests in recent weeks, notably around groups entering office buildings, and with that in mind we continue to brief key trusted partners on activity linked to protests.“

Income inequality growing faster in UK than any other rich country, says OECD

Top 10% have incomes 12 times greater than bottom 10%, up from eight times greater in 1985, thinktank’s study reveals

Protesters against income inequality in London. The OECD said the share of the top 1% had increased from 7.1% in 1970 to 14.3% in 2005.

Income inequality among working-age people has risen faster in Britain than in any other rich nation since the mid-1970s owing to the rise of a financial services elite who through education and marriage have concentrated wealth into the hands of a tiny minority, according to a new report by the OECD.

Economists from the thinktank, which is funded by developed world taxpayers, say the annual average income in the UK of the top 10% in 2008 was just under £55,000, about 12 times higher than that of the bottom 10%, who had an average income of £4,700.

This is up from a ratio of eight to one in 1985 and significantly higher than the average income gap in developed nations of nine to one.

However, the report makes clear that even in countries viewed as „fairer“ – such as Germany, Denmark and Sweden – this pay gap between rich and poor is expanding: from five to one in the 1980s to six to one today. In the rising powers of Brazil, Russia, India and China the ratio is an alarming 50 to one.

The OECD warned about the rise of the top 1% in rich societies and the falling share of income going to poorer people.

This trend is especially pronounced in Britain, where the dramatic rise in inequality has been fuelled by the creation of a super-rich class. The share of the top 1% of income earners increased from 7.1% in 1970 to 14.3% in 2005.

Just prior to the global recession, the OECD says the very top of British society – the 0.1% of highest earners – accounted for a remarkable 5% of total pre-tax income, a level of wealth hoarding not seen since the second world war.

At the same time as accumulating great wealth, the rich have seen tax rates fall. The top marginal income tax rate saw a marked decline: dropping from 60% in the 1980s to 40% in the 2000s, before its recent increase to 50%.

The buildup of riches was partly economic: the higher-paid worked longer. Since the mid-1980s, annual hours of low-wage workers remained stable at around 1,050, while those of high-wage workers rose almost 10% to 2,450 hours.

But the concentration of resources in the highest rungs of Britain’s society was also a social phenomenon. Unlike in many other nations, the earnings gap between the wives of rich and poor husbands in Britain has grown from £3,900 in 1987 to £10,200 in 2004.

Although the OECD figures stop just before the recession, experts say the trend continued into the downturn. Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies said that in the UK „2009/10 incomes went up incredibly fast (at the top end) possibly because the new top rate of tax was coming in“.

Johnson pointed out that the growth in the City and bankers‘ bonuses had played a large part in creating this divide. „If you look at who is racing away then half the top 1% of high earners work in financial services.“

He said that Mark Stewart, a professor of economics at Warwick University, had published work showing that in the past 12 years „almost all the increase in inequality has come from financial services“.

Such disparities, the thinktank said, could not be blamed on globalisation but a trend in labour and social policies in rich nations that had helped the wealthy.

Although spending on public services in Britain had gone up in the past decade, at the same time benefits to the poor were worth less and taxes were less redistributive.

The effect has been a dramatic weakening in the state’s ability to spread wealth throughout society. From the mid-70s to mid-80s the tax-benefit system offset more than 50% of the rise in income inequality. It now manages just 20%.

It was a paradox, said the OECD, that such moves had not been grounded in popular support. Michael Förster, author of the OECD’s Divided We Stand report, said: „In almost all countries apart from the US and Japan more than 50% of people say that inequality is too high. In the UK it is 65% so I think everyone agrees it is a problem.“

To rebalance society „for the 99%“ the authors call for a series of measures focusing on „job creation“, „increased redistributive effects“ and „freely accessible and high-quality public services in education, health and family care“.

When it was pointed out that British government plans would instead lead to public sector job cuts of 710,000, more child poverty and a hike in university fees, the OECD’s authors said debt was an issue for governments but urged them „not to cut social investments“.

Monika Queisser, the head of OECD’s social policy division, said: „The OECD agreed that fiscal consolidation was important. We want to governments to see social expenditures as investment so we would want to see, say, early years [funding] rising.“

Occupy London is 50 days old – now it’s time to Occupy Everywhere

We’re undeterred by recent criticism, and determined to rise to the challenge of accountability – unlike the banks

A protester sits outside at the Occupy London camp at St Pauls cathedral

A protester sits outside at the Occupy London camp at St Pauls cathedral. Photograph: Jack MacDonald

Occupy London is 50 days old on Monday and it’s time to take stock. Unlike those occupations across the world that started off small and were able to expand gradually, our occupation was born in the full glare of the media on 15 October, a „big bang“ launch that meant we had to hit the ground running. Since then we have expanded to three sites across three London boroughs, each of which is a hive of activity. We currently have 39 working groups based at St Paul’s alone, operating across topic areas as diverse as direct democracy, outreach and sanitation.

As a non-hierarchical movement, Occupy is inextricably a joint endeavour. Everyone who joins us – even for an evening – holds equal decision-making weight. At the same time, for those of us who are fully immersed in the process, Occupy is a challenging full-time job that is often combined with other commitments. Seeing the sacrifices people make to keep this project going has been humbling.

Over the last week or so, there have been a variety of news stories – some better intentioned than others – challenging us to aspire to even higher levels of efficiency, transparency and accountability. We take it as a compliment that, after only seven weeks, we are regarded as significant enough to warrant the kind of tough questioning that much more powerful organisations find hard to respond to. Unlike them, we intend to rise to the challenge.

Contrary to reports, there has been no expenses scandal at St Paul’s. It is true that our finance team has stepped down, but certainly not due to any kind of impropriety. One of the lessons of horizontal decision-making is that everyone in the community needs to take responsibility for the occasional hiccups in our system. Members of the old finance team are very involved in discussions about what the new system should look like; they’re also helping to make sure that donations are handled responsibly in the interim period.

Proposals for our reconfigured finance team are being debated. Ideas on the table include asking working groups to become more responsible for raising and allocating funds, and increasing participation in the finance team to ensure that more of the on site population understands what it is they do, and to ensure that our accounts are published regularly.

We have made this journey over just seven weeks with limited resources. Is the financial industry also up to the challenge of transparency and openness? We already know about the position of the City of London Corporation: they’ve had the last thousand years to publish their accounts, but refuse to publicly discuss the issue.

If a week is a long time in politics, then seven weeks is an age in terms of the news cycle. It’s natural that the mainstream media focus on moments of perceived conflict and drama – but when people ask us if we haven’t already made our point, we see the result these emphases have on people’s expectations. Unfortunately, as even George Osborne has admitted this week, the financial crisis is not going away. The need not only to highlight problems but to identify new ways forward, could not be clearer. We need to build new civic institutions to shield us from the excesses of government policy and to defend us from the ravages of the market. Our work is not nearly done.

Occupy London has an incredible headquarters at St Paul’s, but our movement is bigger than any one site. We know it’s away from central London that the impact of the recession is being felt hardest. Moving forward, we intend to prove ourselves with acts of community outreach like our „public repossession“ „bank of ideas“ in Hackney, to create a truly „big“ society. Local groups that have lost their funding are already reconvening in our corridors as we help them in carrying out their vital work.

All over the world, the public is waking up to the fact that the crises of unregulated finance, broken democracy and corrupt institutions will not be solved by those who caused them. Occupy London invites those who feel similarly to take the movement into their own communities: it’s time to Occupy Everywhere.

GB und Israel : Geheime Verschwörung gegen Iran?

Bereits seit 2004 soll einem ehemaligen Botschafter Großbritaniens zu Folge, eine Verschwörung seitens Israel und England gegen den Iran laufen. Es geht den Angaben zu Folge um nicht weniger als einen Militärschlag gegen den Iran. Ausgelöst wurde diese Debatte durch einen Artikel von Jonathan Cook bei Global Research. Er selbst ist ein unabhängiger Journalist, der zum Beispiel für den Guardian und den Observer gearbeitet hat. Er selbst lebt in Israel. Bisher berichten nur wenige Medien darüber.

Laut Jonathan Cook gab Graig Murray, der bis 2004 in Usbekistan Botschafter Englands war an, das es 2004 ein Treffen in Tel Aviv zwischen dem Mossad und einigen hochrangigen Offiziellen der britischen Regierung gab. Das Ziel sei die Vorbereitung eines Angriffs auf die Nuklearanlagen des Iran gewesen.

Bei einem Abendessen hätte man sich darauf konzentriert, wie man seitens Großbritaniens sicherstellen könnte, dass die diplomatischen Vorraussetzungen für einen Militärschlag geschaffen werden können.

Im November soll der Guardian berichtet haben, dass das englische Verteidigungsministerium unter Fox umfassende Pläne für die britische Unterstützung für den Fall eines US-Militärschlag gegen den Iran ausgearbeitet habe. Diese Pläne enthielten auch die Befugnis für das US-Militär, Diego Garcia als Stützpunkt zu verwenden – ein britisches Territorium im Indischen Ozean – , um einen Angriff auf den Iran zu starten.

Die Bemühungen seien im letzten Jahr abermals verstärkt worden, so Jonathan Cook.

Fazit: Die Bestrebungen den Iran in Schutt und Asche zu legen bestehen nicht erst seit Gestern, wenn man britischen Botschaftern glauben schenken will, die sich als Whistle Blower verdingen. Wir berichten auch seit langem über diesen Umstand und versuchen die Menschen ein wenig zu mobilisieren um nicht der Propaganda zum Opfer zu fallen. Wie Generalmajor Zhang Zhaozhong, ein Professor der Chinese National Defense University sagte, werde China nicht zögern, den Iran zu schützen zur Not mit einem dritten Weltkrieg. Iran ist einer der Schlüssel zum Weltfrieden oder eben zum Weltkrieg und sollte daher auch entsprechend Beachtung finden.

Carpe diem und danke an Frank für den Hinweis

Quellen :


Hunderttausende Beschäftige des öffentlichen Dienstes in Großbritannien sind gegen Rentenkürzungen auf die Straße gegangen. Während Premierminister David Cameron die Aktion als Blindgänger bezeichnete, sprachen Gewerkschaften vom größten Streik seit Jahrzehnten.

Die Proteste richten sich gegen die Pläne der Regierung, Menschen später in Rente zu schicken.

Die Wut der Menschen war am Dienstag weiter angefacht worden, als die Regierung in London die Aussichten für das Wirtschaftswachstum nach unten korrigierte. Sie kündigte weitere Sparmaßnahmen bis 2017 an.

Protest gegen Sparmaßnahmen

Großbritannien – 24 Stunden im Streik

In Großbritannien hat der größte Streik im öffentlichen Dienst seit mehr als 30 Jahren begonnen. Insgesamt sind gut zwei Millionen Beschäftigte aufgerufen, aus Protest gegen Sparmaßnahmen und Rentenkürzungen die Arbeit niederzulegen.

Krankenschwestern, Rettungssanitäter und Mitarbeiter öffentlicher Verkehrseinrichtungen gehörten zu den Ersten, die bereits ab Mitternacht die Arbeit niederlegten.

Streikender in London (Foto: Reuters)Großansicht des BildesEin streikender vor der City Hall: „Jeder verdient eine angemessene Pension“Gewerkschafter bereiten Streikplakate vor. (Foto: AFP)Großansicht des BildesGut präpariert: Gewerkschafter bereiten Plakate und Ballons für den Protesttag vor.

Verspätungen bei Bussen, Zügen und Flügen

Als Auswirkungen wird mit massiven Behinderungen im Nah- und Fernverkehr gerechnet. Am Morgen hielten sich die Einschränkungen laut Medienberichten noch in Grenzen.

Auch an Europas größtem Flughafen London-Heathrow dürfte es zu Verspätungen kommen. Dort streikt das Abfertigungspersonal an der Passkontrolle. Der Flughafen hatte die Gesellschaften gebeten, ihre Flugzeuge nicht voll zu besetzen, um den Andrang bei der Passkontrolle zu mildern. Wie die BBC berichtete, waren morgens rund zwei Drittel der Schalter besetzt. Insgesamt werde über den Tag mit 20.000 Passagieren weniger gerechnet.

  • Streik im öffentlichen Dienst gegen Sparprogramm
    tagesschau 15:00 Uhr, 30.11.2011 [Sonia Kennebeck, ARD London]
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Zudem bleiben voraussichtlich bis zu 90 Prozent der Schulen geschlossen, das heißt für fünf Millionen Kinder fällt der Unterricht aus. Auch die Müllabfuhr wird bestreikt.

Audio: Größter Streiktag seit Jahrzehnten in Großbritannien

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AudioJochen Spengler, DLR/DLF-Hörfunkstudio London30.11.2011 11:10 | 4’00

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Protest gegen ein Jahr länger arbeiten

Die Gewerkschaften kämpfen dagegen, dass die Mitarbeiter des öffentlichen Dienstes künftig ein Jahr länger auf den Ruhestand warten müssen und mehr in die Rentenkassen einzahlen sollen. Die Regierung wirft ihnen vor, damit in wirtschaftlich schweren Zeiten unnötig weitere Probleme zu verursachen.

Nach Ansicht von Großbritanniens Finanzminister George Osborne werden die Streiks nichts bringen. Es sei einfach kein zusätzliches Geld zu verteilen. „Dieses Land muss einige harte Maßnahmen treffen, um mit seinen Schulden fertig zu werden“, erklärte Osborne. Er forderte die Gewerkschaften auf, an den Verhandlungstisch zurückzukehren.

Osborne prognostiziert harte Jahre

George Osborne (Foto: dpa)Großansicht des BildesStimmt die Briten auf düstere Wirtschaftsaussichten ein: Finanzminister OsborneBereits tags zuvor hatte Osborne in seinem Herbst-Statement harte Jahre mit geringem Wirtschaftswachstum für das Königreich angekündigt. Im laufenden Haushaltsjahr 2011/2012 müssten 127 Milliarden Pfund (149 Milliarden Euro) neue Schulden aufgenommen werden.

Frühestens 2015 können den Zahlen zufolge die Maastricht-Kriterien der EU zur Staatsverschuldung wieder erfüllt werden.

Parallel dazu gab das Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) bekannt, dass bis 2017 im öffentlichen Dienst 710.000 Jobs abgebaut sein würden. Ursprünglich war ein Stellenabbau von 400.000 vorausgesagt worden.


In Großbritannien hat in der Nacht ein massiver Streik im öffentlichen Dienst begonnen. Von ihm betroffen sind Krankenhäuser, öffentliche Verkehrsmittel und Flughäfen. In Heathrow wird mit zahlreichen Verspätungen gerechnet. Bis zu zwei Millionen Beschäftigte werden die Arbeit niederlegen, um gegen Rentenkürzungen zu protestieren.

Die Gewerkschafterin Lucy Moreton der “Immigration Services Union” erklärte, den Mitgliedern bliebe keine Wahl. Für ihre Gewerkschaft sei es der erste Steik seit dreißig Jahren. Man bedauere den Schritt, niemand wolle streiken. Allerdings hätten sie sich vorher kein Gehör verschaffen können.

Die Türen in fast 90 Prozent der Schulen in England, Schottland und Wales werden an diesem Mittwoch geschlossen bleiben. Auch die Müllabfuhr will sich am Streik beteiligen. Im ganzen Land sind etwa tausend Demonstrationen geplant.

Mit dem Schritt protestieren die Beschäftigten des öffentlichen Dienstes dagegen, dass sie künftig länger arbeiten müssen, um mehr in die Rentenkassen zu zahlen.

Der Streiktag könnte die britische Wirtschaft nach Angaben der Regierung fast 600 Millionen Euro kosten – die Gewerkschaften gehen von einem geringeren Schaden aus.

Day of strikes as millions heed unions‘ call to fight pension cuts
• Disruption across UK as many services come to virtual halt
• Airports, schools, rail services and hospitals affected
• Reform of public sector pensions is at heart of dispute

Severin Carrell, Dan Milmo, Alan Travis and Nick Hopkins · 30/11/2011 ·
Read by 88 people including:
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Strikers outside Birmingham Women’s hospital at midnight as public sector unions begin action across the UK to oppose pension cuts. Photograph: David Jones/PA

The UK is experiencing the worst disruption to services in decades on Wednesday as more than 2 million public sector workers stage a nationwide strike, closing schools and bringing councils and hospitals to a virtual standstill.

The strike by more than 30 unions over cuts to public sector pensions started at midnight, leading to the closure of most state schools; cancellation of refuse collections; rail service and tunnel closures; the postponement of thousands of non-emergency hospital operations; and delays at airports and ferry terminals.

The TUC said it was the biggest stoppage in more than 30 years and was comparable to the last mass strike by 1.5 million workers in 1979. Hundreds of marches and rallies are due to take place in cities and towns across the country.

Pickets began to form before dawn at many hospitals, Whitehall departments, ports and colleges.

The strikes have been called over government plans to overhaul pensions for all public sector workers, by cutting employer contributions, increasing personal contributions and, it emerged on Tuesday, increasing the state retirement age to 67 in 2026, eight years earlier than originally planned.

Union leaders were further enraged after George Osborne announced that as well as a public sector pay freeze for most until 2013, public sector workers‘ pay rises would be capped at 1% for the two years after that.

In Scotland an estimated 300,000 public sector workers are expected to strike, with every school due to be affected after Scottish headteachers voted to stop work for the first time.

The UK Border Agency is braced for severe queues at major airports after learning that staffing levels at passport desks will be „severely below“ 50% despite a successful appeal for security-cleared civil servants to volunteer.

„We will have the bare minimum to run a bare minimum service,“ said a Whitehall insider. Many major public buildings and sites, including every port, most colleges, libraries, the Scottish parliament, major accident and emergency hospitals, ports and the Metro urban light railway around Newcastle and Sunderland will be picketed.

At Holyrood, Scottish government ministers and MSPs in the ruling SNP, the Liberal Democrats and Tories are expected to cross picket lines to stage a debate on public pensions; Labour and Scottish Green party MSPs will join the protesters.

Here are some of the actions across the country:

• In London up to 2,000 schools will be shut or affected, and ambulance crews will strike, there will be pickets in Whitehall, at universities, hospitals and a TUC regional march through the city from Lincoln’s Inn Fields to the embankment.

• In Scotland union leaders including Rodney Bickerstaff, general secretary of Unison, will march through central Edinburgh to a mass rally outside the Scottish parliament, with protests at Edinburgh castle, a major march and rally attended by Scottish union leaders in Glasgow, where civil servants will picket MoD and tax offices. There will be marches and protests in Dundee, Inverness and Aberdeen.

• In southern and south-west England and Wales unions will hold marches and rallies in towns and cities including Brighton, Southampton, Bristol and Exeter, while a New Orleans-style marching band will lead a march through Cardiff.

• In the north-west up to 25 Cumbrian schools may open, the Mersey tunnel is expected to be closed, while in Liverpool protesters will be urged to sound car horns, blow vuvuzela horns, clap and shout at 1pm in an action dubbed „One Noise at One“.

• In the Midlands union general secretaries including the TUC leader Brendam Barber and Dave Prentis of Unison will lead a rally at the Birmingham Indoor Arena, while marches will be held in Nottingham.

• In the north-east of England, Metro services will be severely hit and the RMT rail union leader Bob Crow will address a rally.

• In northern England marches are due to be staged in Manchester, Bradford, Leeds and Sheffield.

• In Northern Ireland there will be no train or public bus services, Belfast’s passport office will be closed along with leisure centres and schools. The main march will be through central Belfast.

The TUC said the strike would also include tens of thousands of border agency staff, probation officers, radiographers, librarians, job centre staff, courts staff, social workers, refuse collectors, midwives, road sweepers, cleaners, school meals staff, paramedics, tax inspectors, customs officers, passport office staff, police civilian staff, driving test examiners, patent officers, and health and safety inspectors.

Unions and employers have struck local deals to avoid disruption to emergency operations and essential medical services at hospitals, mental health units and residential care units for children. Emergency rotas have been introduced by mental health social workers with union agreement.

The Prospect union has exempted staff from strike action who work in 100 essential defence posts, including intelligence analyst posts at British bases in Afghanistan and civil servants supplying frontline troops.

Steve Jary, the national secretary of Prospect, which represents thousands of MoD staff, said: „These people are not the Whitehall bureaucrats of popular imagination. It is ironic that this important work by staff who risk their own lives in supporting the UK’s armed forces only comes to light in a situation like the industrial action.“

Dean Royles, the director of the NHS Employers organisation, which represents NHS trusts in England and Wales, said the unions had agreed to protect emergency services but he warned patients they might still experience significant delays that could spill over into Thursday.

„The absolute priority of everyone in the NHS must be to ensure that patients are safe and we avoid unnecessary distress too patients,“ he said. „We believe robust plans will be in place for the people who need urgent care but those needing non-urgent care may experiences delays.“

The Local Government Association, which represents English and Welsh councils, said it was „working tirelessly“ to minimise disruption to essential services, and to protect services for the elderly, vulnerable and young. Social workers were operating emergency rotas, children’s residential centres were being staffed as fully as possible and service updates would be posted on council websites.