Strikers Out In Force In Manchester

Picket lines and striking workers were out in force in Manchester this morning as teachers and civil servants showed their support for the 24-hour walk out.

School playing fields were eerily empty and roads around locals schools free from buses and cars dropping pupils off as thousands of youngsters had a day off.

Hundreds of schools across the region closed for the day, and outside Crown, Magistrates' and civil courts in Manchester city centre picket lines were formed by members of the PCS union.

JobCentres, prisons and immigration services were also facing disruption.

In Manchester's busy Oxford Road, passing motorists blew their horns in support as hundreds of teachers, civil servants and other public sector workers marched through the city centre.

Strikers, cheering and blowing whistles, set off, with a police convoy at the front stopping traffic, as the march began winding its way through the city centre.

Balloons, flags and banners fluttered, carried by various union branches as protesters chanted: ``Two, four, six, eight, we won't work till 68!''

Police and unions had expected around 500 marchers, but numbers appeared to be well up on that figure.

The march ended with a rally at the Castlefield arena, where speakers were cheered as they attacked the coalition Government over public sector pension plans.

A spokeswoman for Manchester Airport said it was ``business as usual'', with operations running ``smoothly''.

Airport bosses planned ahead by bringing in dozens of replacement staff to cover for the striking immigration workers.

Temporary seating was put in place across the terminals in case of lengthy queues, the spokeswoman said.

"Extra staffing from areas like customer services or back office functions have been organised airside and landside to help manage queues and provide information'' she added.