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Maria Haverton, 36, a hospital worker, said joining the strike had been a last resort.

“We realize the government is having budget problems, but why didn’t they see this coming a long time ago? I’m worried about my pension. I’m worried about my son’s future,” she said, close to London’s King’s Cross rail station.

Others stood outside universities, complaining that education in Britain was already suffering with the cuts.

“It seems like the sectors that need to be protected the most — education and health — are the ones being the most affected,” said Holly Smith, 28.

Britain’s government said less than a quarter of government civil service staff, about 135,000 people, had walked out and that more staff than expected had showed at ports and airports.

Some protesters wore red T-shirts with the slogan, “Get Angry and Fight Back,” a variation of the British wartime propaganda poster, “Keep Calm and Carry on.”

Treasury chief George Osborne said Tuesday the age for collecting state pensions would be raised to 67 in 2026, earlier than previously planned. His decision followed an official forecast that cut Britain’s predicted growth to a feeble 0.7 percent next year, from the previous 2.5 percent prediction made in March.

Osborne insists public pensions must be reformed as taxpayers contribute about 32 billion pounds ($50 billion) each year. A recent government report warned the gap between contributions and payments could rise to 9 billion pounds ($14 billion) by 2015.

Botanists, nuclear physicists and catering staff at the Houses of Parliament — who formed picket lines outside the famous building — also joined the strike, while off Britain’s northernmost tip, ferry services were suspended to the Shetland Isles.


Associated Press Writers Paisley Dodds, Cassandra Vinograd and Meera Selva in London contributed to this story.