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Sussex heading for a standstill
The biggest strike in a generation is set to cause major disruption to schools, transport, courts, libraries, leisure centres and even driving tests.
More than 15,000 public sector workers are expected to strike in Brighton and Hove tomorrow (November 30), bringing the city to a standstill.
Strike action will begin just after midnight, when the first of 4,000 Unison members employed by Brighton and Hove City Council walk out on a 24 hour strike.
Pickets will be formed at about a dozen university, college and council buildings from about 6am.
Then from 11am, three feeder marches from Whitehawk Bus Garage, Hove Town Hall and Brighton University buildings in Moulsecoomb will head into the city centre to be joined by groups of protesters from the city’s hospitals, law courts, job centres, schools and waste depot.
The main march, made up of members of 26 trade unions, will meet at Victoria Gardens in Grand Parade, Brighton, at 11.45am and a mass rally will be held at The Level at 1pm.
More than 60 schools will be closed in Brighton and Hove tomorrow.
School and college closures
County council counts have confirmed that almost 100 schools in East Sussex and about 40 in West Sussex will close, but many schools do not know whether they will open or close until the actual strike day, depending on the number of staff arriving.
Universities will also be impacted, with the University of Brighton confirming that it will close all campuses in Brighton, Hastings and Eastbourne for the day to ensure the safety of its 21,000 students and 2,500 staff.
The University of Sussex expects to be open for business as usual and any teaching staff taking strike action will be expected to inform students via the university intranet if any individual teaching activities are being cancelled.
City College Brighton and Hove has also announced that it will suspend many of its classes, with The City College East campus closed for the day and the Preston Road campus only opening in the evening for an open evening.
The college’s Central Campus in Pelham Street will remain open to allow students to access library facilities, and some classes will continue to operate.
Refuse, housing and other council services
Uncertainty surrounds which council-run services will be available.
Brighton and Hove City Council is warning that it expects no recycling, refuse or street cleaning to take place, while customer service centres, housing offices and parking information centres are all expected to run limited services.
The council is also uncertain whether there will be sufficient staff to open the Royal Pavilion, museums and libraries.
East Sussex County Council has also warned residents that adult social care, libraries, registration offices and recycling services could all be affected.
Brighton and Hove Bus and Coach Company is warning customers about the potential for significant disruption and diversions between at least 10am and 1pm to more than 80 services.
Gatwick Airport is set to be heavily affected by planned action by UK Border Agency staff, which is set to cause considerable delays for customers getting through passport control on arriving flights.
Presently the airport does not know how many Border Agency staff will turn up for work or what impact this could have, but delays of up to 12 hours at Gatwick’s rival airport Heathrow have been predicted.
Emergency service bosses are confident that strike action won’t affect the large majority of their service, with only some outpatient clinics operating a limited service at hospitals.
Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust said it was “business as usual for medical emergencies” with the majority of nurses due to work that day not taking part in industrial action and doctors and midwives also not participating.
Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said that some non-urgent appointments may be disrupted.
East Sussex NHS Healthcare Trust said that the majority of its services would continue to operate, although non-urgent patient transport services may be limited.
Courts and job centres
As well as local government workers, strikes by central government employees are set to cause disruption at courts and Jobcentres in the county.
A spokesman for Her Majesty’s Court and Tribunal Service said that robust contingency plans were in place to prioritise the delivery of the most essential services.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said that it didn’t know how many Jobcentre staff would be on strike but measures are in place to maintain a service and any strikes were not expected to affect any benefit payments due that day.
Uncertainty also surrounds what service will be available to learner drivers hoping to take their test. The Driving Standards Agency said that it was unclear how many of its examiners would join their fellow Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union workers at the seven test centres across Sussex, although drivers are encouraged to turn up for their tests and will have them rearranged for them.
Keep track of school closures with The Argus’ dedicated web page at bit.ly/strikenov2011.
Follow the impact of strike action online throughout the day tomorrow, with pictures and video.
Look out for our reporters at the six picket locations around Brighton and Hove.
See more on the strike action in today's Argus special report.