STRIKE action by thousands of public sector workers in the region forced schools to close, shut council services and disrupted work by government departments.

Pupils at hundreds of primary and secondary schools were given the day off today (Thursday, July 10) as members of the National Union of Teachers joined colleagues from Unison, Unite, GMB and the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) in a joint walk out.

The day of disruption was planned to highlight anger over pay, conditions and public sector cuts.

Members of the Fire Brigade Union also took strike action as their bitter dispute with the government over pensions continues.

Around 5,000 union members from across the region attended a march and rally in Newcastle city centre, while several hundred workers marched through York.

Earlier in the day, striking workers picketed outside council offices, job centres, tax offices and courts across the North-East and North Yorkshire.

Workers from government agencies including the Student Loans Company in Darlington, the Passport Office in Durham City and the HM Revenue & Customs offices in Thornaby took part in the industrial action.

In County Durham, more than 130 schools closed for the day, although only a handful of Darlington's schools shut.

Twenty North Yorkshire schools closed and a further 50 suffered disruption.

On Teesside about 35 schools in Stockton were closed or partially-closed. Half a dozen Middlesbrough school closed while ten schools in the Redcar and Cleveland area shut for the day.

Across the region, numerous other council services, including waste collections, recycling depots, leisure centres and libraries, were forced to close.

Clare Williams, chair of the Northern Public Services Alliance and Unison regional convenor, was one of several union leaders which spoke at the rally in Newcastle.

She said: “Unison is demanding a decent pay rise in recognition of the valuable role that our members perform in delivering public services to children, young people, the elderly and vulnerable in our communities."

A survey commission by Unite on the eve of the strike found that 50 per cent of people in the North of England agreed that the local government workers’ call for an £1 per-hour pay rise was justified.

“The poll confirms that people across the North support workers who are fighting to end poverty pay in our local councils," said Mike Routledge, Unite local government officer for the North-East.