30/06/2011 Midlands Today


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Hello, welcome to Midlands Today with Suzanne Virdee and Nick Owen.


The headlines tonight: Protect our pensions - thousands of strikers


converge on Birmingham on a day of protest. Do you want to see


teachers aged 68 calling on the nursery floor with children?


670 shut but the Prime Minister praises the school where teachers


refused to go on strike. They took their decision that on this


occasion, they would put the children and families' interests


first. The fans have nothing to worry


about say officials - after Birmingham City owner Carson Yeung


is charged with five counts of money laundering.


And defeat at the high court for a soldier's mother who says the


Good evening, welcome to Thursday's Midlands Today from the BBC.


Tonight, a massive show of defiance as thousands of public sector


workers take to the streets in protest.


Unions claimed 4,000 people took part in a rally and march in


Birmingham City Centre and there were other events across our region.


It meant more than 670 schools were shuts and hundreds more partially


closed. Our political reporter Susana


Mendonca reports now on the day teachers and civil servants vowed


to protect their pensions. This is what angry public sector


workers look like. Thousands of teachers and civil servants took


over Birmingham's Victoria Square in this, their first face-off with


a government, over their pensions. Do you really want to see children


-- teachers aged 68 calling on the nursery floor with children? Am I


going to have my hips and knees replaced? I think not. Important


people in sectors like police, education, health care, they are


being let down. For the future of teaching is at stake because how on


earth are we going to attract top- quality graduates with a poxy


pension scheme? Then they marched through the city in protest at


plans that would see them pay more into their pensions, work for


longer and have them based on a career average instead of the more


generous final-salary schemes. With so many teachers taking action,


schools were left empty. It was a price that those here felt had to


be paid. We apologise to the parents for the destruction. It is


not our aim to disrupt parents in these matters. What we think is


that if we let the government get away with it this wholly


unjustified attack on our pension scheme, it will damage our


profession, damage teacher recruitment and retention and so


there will be more teacher shortages, a bigger turnover, and


it will be worse for an education in the long run. The government


says its plans are fair and essential and instead of striking


today, the unions should be getting around the table and negotiating.


But people who have turned up here in Birmingham city centre did not


believe them and protests like this have been happening not just here,


but across the West Midlands. In Telford, it was the Savoy service


union that took centre-stage as 400 civilian defence workers marched.


The this is not just civil servants worrying about minor changes to


their terms and conditions. We are talking about people on ordinary


salaries and ordinary wages losing tens of thousands of pounds and in


some cases hundreds of thousands of pounds over the course of their


lifetime. In Stoke-on-Trent, people working in Jobcentres, benefit


offices and courts were among those joining the demonstration. The it


has been a show of the Solidarity for all public sector workers


across the country and it is certainly something that is for


workers to be proud of in Stoke-on- Trent and Staffordshire. It has


given a lot of heart as well to public sector workers, so that they


can fight for better pensions in the future. I did want my child to


be taught by someone who is 68... In Worcester, teachers piled into


St Peter's Church for their protest. Among them were members who had


never been on strike before. This was the first time in its 110 --


127 year history that they are taking this kind of action. This


union is a moderate union and we do not take strike action very often.


This is an issue that we think is of such major importance that we


feel we have no alternative but to take strike action. The government


is urging unions to continue with negotiations but the unions are


promising more scenes like this in the coming months unless their


demands are met. The And Susana's in the centre of


Birmingham now. Susanna, how do the unions think the day has gone?


All of the unions I've been speaking to today feel that it was


quite a successful day. It's quiet now but you saw the busy pictures


earlier on. They tell me that around 4000 people attended. It was


difficult to tell what the numbers are actually worth. The police told


us it was in the thousands. That is a lot less than the unions were


telling me yesterday. They had said it would be 10,000. There certainly


were not that a number of people here. I am joined by Doug Morgan


from the nut. A lower turnout in Birmingham than the unions were


telling us yesterday. We were always going to talking up what we


were doing. We were pleased that we have thousands of public sector


workers who stood up for public services today, who said our


pensions should be protected, who said our schools and our council


services should be protected. We thought it was a good event. It is


the children of the parents of children who have suffered as a


result of your members walking out. We had hundreds of schools closed


across the Midlands. What can you say to those people to retain their


support? We had lots of public support. Many parents are on the


demo today. There will be days of disruption but it is to stop


decades of destruction. Without us taking action, there will be no


jobs in the future for many people. There will be no pensions for their


kids. We think we were right to do what we did. The unions are saying


that unless the Government meets their demands, we will see more


events like we saw today in the coming months.


So hundreds of classrooms were empty today, but one school in


Worcestershire won praise from the Prime Minister for staying open.


David Cameron paid tribute to teachers at Vaynor First School in


Redditch, where the headteacher said staff were putting their


pupils first. Cath Mackie reports. It's 8.30am and normally the


arrival of children at Vaynor First school in Redditch wouldn't be


making the news today though is different. Despite some teachers


here belonging to the unions which are on strike. They've come in and


the school's staying open. They took the decision that on this


occasion they would put the children and families' interests


first. However they fully support their colleagues who have strike.


It is always a hard decision. that decision was welcome news to


parents. I support the strike in the that the pensions are really


important to them but also, the kids need to go to school. It's


great because you don't have to find childcare or anything like


that but I believe that they should have gone on strike. And doubtless


never before has an ordinary schoolday won such political praise


as happened in the House of commons yesterday. What does my right


honourable friend say to the teachers at a school in my


constituency who are pressing the welfare of the children first by


not striking tomorrow? A I would congratulate them for doing the


right thing and keeping their school open. I don't believe there


is any case for industrial action tomorrow, not least because talks


are still ongoing. While it's a day of protest for many teachers across


the Midlands, here the school day is well underway here. But this


public sector pay and pensions dispute is far from over and the


school can't rule out taking future strike action. A I would have to


weigh up the pros and cons and see what came out of negotiations


because I'm due to retire and are not sure whether I'm going to be


able to. That is a worry. A we are living longer, the money is not


there, something needs to be done. Don't teachers have to do what


everybody else is having to do and take their hit of the cuts? It is


about the amount of money that is already in the pot. The indications


are there is sufficient there, with the agreement have already made, to


actually sustain our pensions to the question is, why is there for


need for this action by the government? The Tomorrow all


teachers will be back at work but with the Government and unions


still at loggerheads, the question is, for how long?


Today's strike action also involved Birmingham City Council workers,


but that's all to do with a separate issue, a dispute over


changes to their contracts. Workers claim carers and other workers face


losing a third of their salaries. The city council said only 10% of


their workforce went on strike, and disruption was minimal. But some


severely disabled people feel they've been let down by the


industrial action. Bob Hockenhull reports.


Valerie has a severely disabled 46- year-old son who needs two home


care visits a day. She doesn't want us to identify him. But she says


today's strike meant she's had to travel 35 miles to look after him.


He wouldn't have had a carer. Hopefully someone would have come


to cover him for the morning but he would not have had anybody for his


lunch call, he would have missed out on his medication which is


vital. On a picket line in Birmingham this morning, we showed


striking carers an e-mail Valerie sent to Midlands Today voicing her


concerns. Some admitted they'd taken today's action with heavy


hearts. It is not like we are happy with what we are doing. It is our


last choice. This morning, I was in two minds. I thought we are


thinking about the residents put up the same time, we have to think


about our livelihoods as well. Labour leader Ed Miliband may have


spoken out against today's national strikes. But that didn't stop one


of his MPs visiting this picket line to lend his support. I know


one woman who gives outstanding service to the elderly and disabled.


She earns �14,000 a year. Her pay is going to be cut by �4,000. That


is wrong. The many other workers here today it is the first time


they've taken part in a strike. Gone are the questions they must


ask now is does their action risk alienating the public? Birmingham


City Council insists the new contract proposals are fair and


necessary if it's to make savings. But the unions say it's simply


unfair to make staff who're already on low wages work for even less.


Our political editor Patrick Burn's been in Westminster for us today,


gauging reaction to the strike. Let's go live to him now. Patrick,


what have our MPs been saying to you then?


It is a measure of how awkward this issue is in many ways for our


politicians that whoever you talk to, wherever they sit in the House


of Commons, you have one of those on at the one hand, on the other,


kind of conversations. Yes, they understand how very strongly


teachers feel about their pensions but they deplore, often in a


trenchant terms, the strike. Labour, however, they are against the


strike generally as well but on the other hand, they are against her by


the government is handling this. What are -- what are they for, I


wonder? M joined by an MP, -- I am joined by two MPs. What do you say


to an official who told us that he felt duty -- teachers had a moral


duty to strike against your government which has run aiding its


commitment to pay decent pensions? One of the Labour pensions


Secretary look into this independently, he said that the


current system is untenable and it desperately needs reform. He also


said that as a proportion of national earnings, pensions are


going to go down over the next four years. They are not an affordable.


We he said that, he is taking into account some of the changes the


government has already amount so that is not a fair comparison. What


I would also save is that the government is in negotiations with


the TUC right now and just this week commander, Brendan Barber said


the government is discussing with the TUC in good faith so it is


premature. This is a complete embarrassment for a party, isn't


it? You cannot condone the strike but you cannot have to join a union


friends either. It is not an embarrassment because before -- the


for trade unions taking part on not affiliated to the Labour Party.


This is a failure on both sides. The government has mishandled this


situation by trying to dictate the outcome of what is a sensitive of -


- no decision on pensions. Where is this leading? I sincerely hope it


is leading to a negotiated settlement. When we were in


government, be negotiated very tough agreements on pensions and we


did not have this kind of disruption. Where is this leading?


I hope where it leads to a is a Ferez settlement, both for


taxpayers, so there is a better balance between what is paid and


what the taxpayer pays, and also let us recognise people are living


longer so pensions need to change. Thanks, Patrick. And we'll be back


Birmingham City chairman Peter Pannu insists the club's future is


financially secure, despite the fact that owner Carson Yeung's been


charged with five counts of money laundering, involving �57 million


in his native Hong Kong. Yeung's been released on bail and Pannu's


flying out to meet him. Dan Pallett's report contains some


flash photography. Not the style of entrance he's been


used to. Today Carson Yeung arrived at a Hong Kong Court to face five


charges of money laundering. Prosecutors say it involves around


�57 million passing through Mr Yeung's accounts. The 51-year-old


refused to talk to reporters outside the court although his


solicitor denied the charges on his behalf. Former Birmingham City


chairman Vico Hui says the matter involves Yeung's personal finances


and shouldn't affect Birmingham City or the parent company


Carson Yeung took over at Birmingham City in October 2009.


The charges relate to a period before then from 2001 to 2007, but


the club say they understand if supporters have concerns. If found


guilty Carson Yeung could face upto 14 years in jail and a fine of up


to �400,000. He's been bailed to reappear in Court on August 11th.


Worrying time for blues fans. Craig Gardner has been sold to Sunderland


into the last few minutes. We're joined now by Dr John Beech, a


football finance expert at Coventry University. Dr Beech, what's your


verdict on today's developments? I think it is early days in what is


going to be a bit of a saga. The obvious love for shows there is no


direct involvement in the alleged offences because of the timing of


them. Clearly there are worrying times ahead if he is found guilty


and get the worst punishment. Then I think there is some cause for


concern. The key word at the Mermaid is uncertainty. We really


do not know which is going -- which way this is going to go.


There were comforting words from the club but the place must be in


turmoil. I think it must be because it is


all very well saying the club is not involved, and clearly it is and,


but when your own is facing serious charges like that with serious


outcomes, of course it is very worrying. The timing of this


probably couldn't be worse with the relegation and all the additional


financial problems that that will bring. It is not good timing.


Obviously he is innocent until proven guilty but they are terrible


headlines for the game in general. What you think the Premier League


and Football League will make of all this? I think they will be


concerned because again, money laundering in football is a


combination that has been highlighted about a year ago. An


international report pointed out that football is particularly


vulnerable to money laundering. Even the suggestion that there


might be a connection is not good news. It is very part -- it is very


bad. I'll fight on - the words of a mother told by the High Court in


London she can't claim compensation from the government for the death


of her soldier son. Sue Smith had argued the Ministry of Defence


failed to provide armoured vehicles which could have saved the life of


her son, Private Phillip Hewitt. But the court said a separate claim


for negligence after the death of Corporal Stephen Allbutt, a father


of three from Stoke-on-Trent, can proceed. Sarah Falkland was in


London for the hearing. A smile in spite of everything. Sue


Smith has her case struck out by the High Court today but was


determined to fight on. I don't feel we've lost because we've got


this far and we will just carry on. There is Europe, if we lose in the


UK. We will go to Europe. Her son was blown up in a so-called snatch


Land Rover in Iraq in 2005. Because he died on foreign soil and away


from the British army camp, the High Court judge today ruled that


her case on other grounds of the European Convention on Human Rights


could not hold. All along, the Ministry of Defence has argued it


has not had a duty of care under the principle of, community and its


losses have claimed that in terms of defence procurement, this is a


matter for politicians and commanders, not for judges. Mr


Justice Owen disagreed. He'd said that in terms of duty of care, it


was fair, was in the public interest and it was a matter for


the courts. That means that Staffordshire widowed Debbie all


but could now be in line for compensation. As a dependent, she


is entitled to fight on the grounds of negligence. Her husband was


killed in a friendly fire incident in a tag which did not have the


right identity equipment. It will open some floodgates, which is when


you do think about it. It is frightening to think what we have


achieved today really. The MoD will be extremely disappointed by this


judgment because it does clarify the law in a way that says that it


cannot be say that the MoD has no duty of care to soldiers who they


are sending the board in armed conflict. The MoD are said to be


the appealing to days judging. have not got the MoD money but what


I have got is that it termination - - the determination. It is only


fair that people like myself and the other families could go.


But -- keep going. Still to come tonight: The forecast.


Is it the rise or fall of Let's go back to remain story


tonight. Thousands of people protested in the centre of


Birmingham this lunchtime at plans to change pensions.


One of the strikers was a teacher from Warwickshire. What drove him


to strike? Today, this man joined other


striking teachers to hand out apples to the public. An apple.


what is it so -- what is it for? For support for teachers' strike


him. For the economy is in a mess and they are trying to sort it out.


At least they are trying. Indi has been teaching for 12 years and


earns thirty thousand pounds a year he's estimated that the pension


changes will cost him an extra �100 a month and result in a smaller


pension pot at the end. But the apple a day stunt didn't cure


everyone today. I'm fed up of people whingeing. People need to


wake up, go and get a job, get a life. Undaunted Birminghams mass


rally beckoned Indi joined thousands of other public service


workers demonstrating their frustration at the changes. No


doubt there are people tonight who are angry that they spotted their


Teachers protesting in this rally but the teachers say that they are


doing it for the good of everybody's pension in the country


and not just because -- not just for themselves. A pensions are


important, especially if you want younger teachers to come in. People


will be watching us and saying you should be at work. What did you say


to them? If you are a teacher one day, we will do this for you.


Traffic was brought to a standstill but onlookers admitted to having


some sympathy with the demonstrators. They have got to


take a stand somewhere, haven't they? We it is an inconvenience but


I think it is right. We are suffering a lot of cuts because of


this government. Unions say if the issue isn't resolved there'll be


more strikes in the autumn when its unclear if the public support will


be as strong. We've had a big reaction to the


strike today on our Facebook page. Here's a taste of the comments.


Chris Hughes, I'm in the private sector and haven't had a pay rise


of any sort in six years. They don't know how good they have it,


this public sector lot! Mark Rider says, what have the hard


working backbone of the country done to cause the economic crisis?


Who did cause the country's problems, and should it not be they


who have to pay? Claire Pickering says, the only


ones suffering in this are the children missing out on Education.


Maybe you should think of another way before disrupting them. You


soon moan if we take our kids out of school for a day.


Alison Branch, I'm not a teacher. But fully support all our public


sector workers who were shafted in the boom and are being made


scapegoats in the bust. And you can read all the comments


we've received on our Facebook page. So that's a brief taste of comments


we've received. Let's go back now as promised to our Political Editor


Patrick Burns, who's at Westminster. Patrick, some support for the


strikers, but also criticism for the impact on education and a sense


of welcome to the real world from those in the private sector.


I think that those sentiments are broadly in line with the findings


of a recent opinion poll which I've seen, showing that while most


people disapprove strongly of teachers go on strike, there is a


narrow majority also disapprove of the way the government is handling


this. Plenty of scope there for public opinion to swing very


strongly one way or the other and put a strong evidence on the unions


or government negotiators. Can you see the Government and the


trade unions ever reaching agreement/ compromising on this


issue? You have to pick your way through


the rhetoric on a strike day like this. Unions will say they've put


down their marker for an autumn winter wave of strikes. All the


other hand, you could say there is a counterpoint of you, where the


unions have shown that relatively few people support them, they are


isolated. There has been little disruption in the airports for


example. Where do we go from here?


Certainly for the time being, the talks go on a and the word at


Westminster tonight is that in so far as most of the unions are


concerned, they will persevere with that preferred route towards a


negotiated settlement. More about the war of words between private


dance public sector, blog -- private and public sector on my


Compared to this time yesterday, it is looking much drier now. The


showers were tamer too today but the chances of drier weather this


weekend increase due to the dominant presence of high pressure


although I wish I could say the same about amounts of sunshine.


However, pleasant weather attracts high pollen counts. And there are


no changes there this weekend. They've been consistently high now


for some time. But yet again, we're looking at temperatures taking a


tumble tonight to lows of five Celsius in remote, sheltered spots


- quite cool for this time of year. Elsewhere, lows of eight or nine.


And it's a clear, dry night which then translates into lots of


sunshine tomorrow morning. But as promising as that looks to begin


with tomorrow, that will gradually fade through the day with more


cloud spreading in from the Northwest. It could just give off


the odd spot of drizzle but it's a mostly dry day and feeling roughly


the same with highs of 18 to 19 Celsius. And then we come onto the


weekend, not only are the temperatures going to lift slightly


but the night values will rise too. Not a lot of sunshine though, any


cloud gets stuck under the very stagnant conditions of the high


pressure and so bright rather than That's rather encouraging.


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