HUNDREDS of local government workers across Hampshire have today gone on the march in a defiant message to the government over pensions and pay.

Waving placards and chanting anti-government slogans, striking public sector workers have been rallying this afternoon in Southampton under the cry of "enough is enough".

Hundreds of public sector workers from a host of trade unions converged on the entrance of the city's Civic Centre, blowing whistles and sounding horns to make themselves heard as they take part in the biggest collective strike in decades.

They are protesting at cuts to pensions, pay and public services.

Among those walking out today under a blazing sun are teachers, firefighters, librarians and council staff, with demos and pickets taking place across Hampshire and the UK.

Addressing the gathering rally in Southampton this afternoon was Gail Cartmail, assistant general secretary of Unite the union.

She said:"The sun shines on the righteous.

"From where I am standing you are looking fantastic.

"So who's on strike ? Who are these militants? They are admin workers, care workers, refuge workers.

"It's the people you rely on - classroom assistants, the teachers, the people who live next door.

"It's our people, our community standing up for a fair deal."

Meanwhile thousands of Hampshire school children are missing lessons.

But striking teachers the Daily Echo spoke to defended the walkout, which is protesting against changes to teaching, work load and pay as well as to pensions which could see teachers working up to 68.

One of them, Liz Tiler, head teacher at Valentines Primary in Sholing, Southampton, said: "I think it's regrettable. I am a mum myself, so my daughter is not at school today.

"However sometimes you have to take short term action in order to prevent long term damage to our education system.

"I am here today to stand up for the state education system. I am very concerned about the changes Michael Gove is determined to implement.

"My parents in my school don't want teachers still teaching at 68, when they're tired and do not have the energy. They want their children to have a decent education because that's what's going to change their lives in the future."