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Thousands of public workers across the U.K. staged what's being called the biggest general strike in a generation, shutting down schools, transportation, and some health care facilities, as unions fight with the government over pension reforms. The unions says two million people are planning to participate, but cabinet officials say the actual number of civil servants that are actually walking out is far lower.

The government is looking to reform pension plans by asking public sector employees to contribute more money and more hours, or risk bankrupting the country. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne says the strike "is not going to change anything" and will only make the economy even weaker. Union leaders says the government is raiding hard-earned pensions while laying off hundreds of thousands of workers in a painful effort to get the country out of debt.

Even though Britain is not on the Euro, it's still feeling the effects of the global debt crisis and is fighting over many of the same austerity measures that have roiled other countries like Greece, Spain, and Italy. Osborne's austerity plan, which has been going on for the last year and was meant to last until 2015, has already beenĀ labeledĀ a failure by the opposition Labour Party. The U.K. economy is growing slower than predicted and debt continues to rise even higher.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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