HUNDREDS of public sector workers marched through Birkenhead as part of the national strike which brought much of the borough’s public services to a halt.
Schools were shut across Wirral and pickets lined the entrances to council offices as even the authority’s call centre was closed as part of the action over pensions.
Queues stretched along the M53 as traffic backed up as it was diverted because of the Wallasey tunnel closure.
Pickets were also highly visible at Wirral’s hospitals with dozens outside both Arrowe Park and Clatterbridge sites while the Child Support Agency and Land Registry in Birkenhead also saw active picketing.
Dave Lunn of the PCS union at the Land Registry said it was “probably the best supported strike we have ever had” and feelings of members were running high over Government plans to increase their workers’ pension contributions.
Elsewhere hundreds of those on strike joined a march organised by Wirral TUC from Birkenhead Park to Hamilton Square where there were speeches from local union leaders and a performance of poetry reading from charity worker Morag Reid to entertain the crowd.
Dave Hurst from the GMB said: “It was not public sector workers who created the financial crisis so why should they have to pay.”
He and other speakers also warned: “Today is not the end of the campaign – it’s only the beginning.”
And Wirral TUC’s Alec McFadden said the strike had “shut Wirral down”.
Paul McGuinness, PCS branch chairman for PCS at the Child Support Agency, said he had been punched by one person passing the picket line.
ALL but one of the council’s buildings were closed by the strike as workers joined the march in Liverpool.
Schools, children’s centres, One Stop shops, libraries and leisure centres all shut their doors.
About 94% of the council’s 7,200 staff boycotted their workplace, with only around 470 crossing picket lines. Bins were left uncollected in some areas as refuse collectors joined the action.
Unison branch secretary for Knowsley Roger Bannister called the action "very successful".
He said: "Today we’ve sent a message to the government that we will no longer tolerate these cuts."
"The autumn budget statement on Tuesday just showed how important it is people come out in support of this action".
Dom Smith, north Merseyside branch secretary for the PCS Department of Work and Pensions, said the turnout was "excellent": He added: "Members from Knowsley came to Liverpool to join the action and forced what few services were open to operate with skeleton crews.
"People are truly disillusioned and have stood up to make their voices heard."
HOSPITAL staff, bin men, grave-diggers and head teachers were among tens of thousands striking in Sefton against pension reform plans.
Just one school in the borough remained fully open, while almost all public buildings were shut down, including key leisure centres and libraries in Crosby and Southport.
After workers gathered on picket lines at dawn thousands then converged on Liverpool for the midday rally.
Southport bin man Will Paynter picketed at the town’s waste depot.
He said: "Everybody is in a really bad mood, they are worried and angry.
"Once the Conservative government got in, we knew there would be changes.
"There will be more voluntary redundancies next year but no-one will take them – everybody knows there are no jobs. Everyone’s very low."
Ainsdale councillor Terry Jones was due to bury his late father’s ashes yesterday, only to be told by funeral directors that the cemetery workers were on strike.
The Conservative politician said: "They (those on strike) have got to look at the bigger picture, the unions are not helping the situation."
In Crosby, motorists on Liverpool Road were asked to show their support to those on strike by beeping their car horns. Protester Rita Derringer from Crosby said: "The Government wants me to work more and get less for my pension than I was promised 30 years ago."
Glen Williams, from Sefton Unison, said: "It is a shame that we had to take industrial action because no Unison member wants to do it."
"What they want is for the coalition Government to go into dialogue with the trade unions."