Thousands of teachers, refuse collectors, firefighters and other public sector workers in our region are on strike today.
Around two thousand took part in a rally and march in Leeds this morning. Almost 600 schools are closed and a further 450 partially closed as teachers took part in the marches or manned picket lines.
There were similar scenes in Bradford - today's walkout is the largest one-day strike over pay by public sector workers since 2010.
The TUC's regional secretary Bill Adams says the Government are not listening to staff concerns, but MP Patrick McLoughlin says the action is hurting the public:
A government minister has said fewer than 500,000 people are estimated to have taken part in today's public sector strike, a significantly lower number than union leaders have claimed.
Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude, who is responsible for the Civil Service, said: "Our official estimates are that fewer than half a million took part in this strike action – well short of the inflated claims of union leaders.
"Within the Civil Service, there has been the lowest recorded turnout for a national strike," he added.
Unions have been criticised for going ahead with strike action despite a low turn out at the ballot.
Today, Neil Ware, from the GMB Union, defended the strike action despite figures from the National Office of Statistics saying staff in the public sector still earn between 2.2 per cent and 3.1 per cent more than the private sector in the year 2013.
Traffic crossing the Humber Bridge today can do so free of charge as toll station workers are out on strike.
Most cars and motorbikes pay £1.50 to cross, but charges rise up to £12 for heavy goods vehicles weighing over 7.5tonnes.
A union has described the Cabinet Office's figures on the amount of people striking today as "laughable".
The Cabinet Office claims a fifth of civil servants - around 90,000 people - are on strike compared with a third in the last big walkout in 2011.
However, the Public and Commercial Services union dismissed the Cabinet Office's claims, saying: "No-one can trust this government to keep reliable figures, it can't even tell us what it's done with dozens of Home Office files."
Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said fewer than 20% of civil servants were on strike today compared with a third in the last big walkout in 2011.
Mr Maude said today's disruption was the fault of union leaders and urged public sector workers that the right to strike must be exercised "responsibly".
He pointed out that only one in five members of Unite and Unison had taken part in ballots leading to the strike, adding that low turnouts strengthened the case for reform.
Members of the Unison union have been striking in City Square in Lincoln.
They are part of a national day of industrial action involving around a million public sector workers.
The Government says disruption to local services is minimal.
Education Secretary Michael Gove told ITV News there is "no excuse" for teachers going on strike, which has "caused disruption for hardworking parents".
Mr Gove said: "There's no justification for this action and teachers, I hope, will draw the appropriate lesson from today which is that it is their responsibility to put children first and to be in the classroom teaching, not on the picket line striking."
The Government say around a fifth of civil servants are on strike today as several unions take part in industrial action.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said:
“Most public sector workers have reported for work today and well-rehearsed contingency plans are ensuring that nearly all key public services are being delivered as usual.
“In past years, unions made inflated claims about how many they thought would participate in strike action. They were shown to be wrong."
The statement said:
- a fifth of civil servants - fewer than 90,000 – are on strike – that is down from the strike action in March 2013;
- all 717 Jobcentres opened this morning;
- the majority of schools in England and Wales are open;
- fire services are operating across the country; and
- nationally, disruption to local government services is minimal.
Almost 600 schools have been closed across the region as teachers join a public sector strike.Read the full story ›