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UK: Schools closed, services disrupted as public workers strike

Unions say the strike by two million public sector workers could be the biggest walkout in decades, closing schools, halting public transit and forcing cancellations of medical appointments and surgeries.

Uk public workers strike 11 30 2011Enlarge
A hospital worker holds a placard on a picket-line during a public sector worker strike over pensions outside the Royal Manchester Eye Hospital in Manchester on November 30, 2011. Two million public sector workers in Britain went on strike on November 30 over changes to their pensions in the biggest walkout for decades, which is expected to cause widespread disruption. (ANDREW YATES /AFP/Getty Images)

Public workers in the UK are on strike over changes to their pensions, resulting in disruptions to public transit, closures of state schools and government offices, and cancellations of scheduled surgeries.

Unions say the strike could be the biggest walkout in decades, Agence France-Presse reported, with an estimated two million workers on strike. But the government says the number is less than expected.

British Prime Minister David Cameron described the strike as a "damp squib," referring to an explosive that fails to go off because it is wet.

The strike is over planned government changes to pensions that would see public workers pay more and be employed for longer in order to earn their pensions.

More than half of England's 21,700 state schools were closed Wednesday, the BBC said. About 50 percent of schools in Northern Ireland were shut.

Thousands of medical appointments and routine surgeries were cancelled, according to the UK's National Health Service (NHS).

The BBC reported that in London, ambulances were only responding to "life-threatening emergencies."

Plane traffic at Britain's biggest airports, Heathow and Gatwick, was reportedly unaffected despite fears of long delays.

Sky News said the strike could be the biggest since the "Winter of Discontent" in 1979, when there were widespread strikes by trade unions.

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