Strikers rally outside Costcutter store protesting pension reforms
More than 300 public sector strikers converged on Kingston town centre for a rally against changes to their pensions.
Speakers using a loud hailer were railing against Government reforms while standing outside the Costcutter shop in Eden Street.
The group heard from teachers, care workers, union officials and a 13-year-old boy during the hour-long demonstration in the square near Kingston's Hippodrome.
Protesters had started a march outside Kingston University’s Penrhyn Road campus and Surrey County Council, and were joined by teachers, lecturers, students and probation officers on their route to the town centre.
The group, which was given a police escort, was too big for the intended venue at the Richard Mayo Centre in the United Reform Church in Eden Street.
Jean Jarrett, a senior probation officer in Kingston, said: “We are concerned about cuts to the pensions which we paid in. The government has already taken some of our pension and will take some more.
“We work a very difficult job, and it’s not appreciated. We work with some very difficult people, who have committed some very serious crimes.”
The rally broke up just after 11am as protesters headed to Kingston Station to join a rally in central London.
Police said the rally passed off peacefully with no arrests, but some people warned for walking on the wrong side of the road.
A Chessington mother-of-two was one of hundreds of parents forced to take a day off work after schools shut for the day.
Jenny Coll, 29, took her daughter Zoe Finch, eight, to Kingston after St Mary’s school in Chessington partially closed.
Her engineer husband was able to take their seven-year-old son Tommy Finch to work when his year group at Tolworth Junior School was also told not to come in.
However, the unexpected day’s holiday allowed Zoe to go to All Saints Church and Hampton Court Palace with a Spanish friend before they return to the Canary Isles at the weekend.
She said: “I had to take the day off, and I don’t paid for days off. It’s a pain really. I was going to take her into work, but I can’t.
“I can totally understand because I got her trust fund and it’s gone down £100 in just a year because of cuts.
“I think the teachers should get their pensions. They work hard for them.
“If the strikes went on, it would be complete shut down on my part. I could not do anything.”
A two-mile tailback stretched from Teddington into Kingston as other people sought to take advantage of an extra day’s Christmas shopping.