THOUSANDS of striking public sector workers have walked out over what they say are “unfair” pension changes.

Nearly 600 marched through Worcester yesterday as 30 unions combined for a one-day strike which shut most of the county’s schools and closed libraries, and disrupted council services.

Healthcare nurses joined 999 police emergency call handlers, probation officers, teachers and others on a protest march through the heart of the city.

At the main rally inside Tramps nightclub, keynote speakers told striking workers they should “be proud to say enough is enough”.

Across the county, many workers whose wages are paid by the taxpayer walked out after negotiations between the unions and Government over public sector pension reform broke down.

Kevin Greenway, of the Public and Commercial Services union, urged the Government to negotiate in good faith while Cabinet Office Secretary Francis Maude said the Government had made workers “a fair and generous offer”.

Mr Greenway said the Government was guilty only of “bullying and intimidation” and had “painted a picture of unions itching for a fight”.

Worcester’s Conservative MP Robin Walker praised workers who turned up for work and said the majority of those not striking would “be mystified that usually dedicated public sector workers are leaving their posts”.

In March public sector workers were told the Government would switch index-linking which keeps pensions in line with inflation from RPI to the CPI measure.

Trades unions estimate this alone would cut members’ pensions by 15 per cent.

But unions only balloted for strikes after the Government proposed public sector workers pay 3.2 per cent more into their pensions every year.

They also want workers to retire later (at 68) and drop the final salary scheme for an average career salary. Unions argue this means “working longer, for less”.

It is “a lie that public sector pensions are unaffordable”, Ian Lawrence, National Association of Probation Officers assistant general secretary told the packed nightclub.

He said striking workers had been made to look “like public enemy number one”.

He also said: “Shame on the Labour Party as well for not backing this action” and said there was “a crisis of political representation” in the UK.

Max Hyde, of the National Union of Teachers national executive, said: “It’s not about pensions, but about fairness.”

She said public sector workers were being made to pay the price for a problem caused by bankers.

“We don’t want equality of misery, we want equality for all public and private sector workers.”

Mr Greenway said unions were “fighting to win” and called for “rolling strikes” if agreement could not be reached.

Unions also rubbished the Government’s attacks over how many union members had voted for strikes, saying it should be compared with the proportion of eligible voters who voted for the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties at the last election.

Click here for dozens of pictures from the strike.