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Strike ballots called over public sector pensions

Strike ballots called over public sector pensions

Category: Pensions

Updated: 05/10/2012
First Published: 14/09/2011

This article was correct at the time of publication. It is now over 6 months old so the content may be out of date.

Public sector workers are to be balloted about whether to go on strike over proposed reforms to their pensions.

Government plans to increase the amount that those who work in the public sector have to pay into their pensions are being put to the vote by the unions.

Unite, the largest union in the country, has confirmed its 250,000 members in the public sector will be balloted for industrial action in defence of public service pensions.

At the same time, Unison, the GMB and the Fire Brigades' Union have also agreed to consult members about the possibility of co-ordinated strike action in November.

Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey, said the union movement had taken the step with reluctance, but had been faced with a Government 'that refuses to negotiate in good faith'.

"Public sector pensions are not 'gold plated'," he added.

"Half of public sector pensioners get less than £5,600 a year. In local government, the average pension is £4,000-a-year - for women it is less. Half of women, who have worked in the NHS, receive £3,500-a-year or less."

Noting that public sector pensions were reformed by the last Government with increased contributions and later retirement ages, Mr McCluskey suggested that the new reforms will drive thousands of public sector workers out of the schemes and could, ultimately, undermine their viability.

While adding that the unions are prepared to continue negotiating with the Government, he said that 'it has to be in good faith'.

Following the announcement of the strike ballots, however, the CBI has told the Government it must not alter its plans for public sector pension reform.

Calling for negotiation rather than confrontation, the CBI urged the Government 'to stick to its guns', particularly because it has already promised to protect lower earners from the full increase in contributions, and public sector workers will 'still have among the best pensions in the UK '.

"What's clear is that public sector pensions must be fair for employees and for the taxpayer," said Dr Neil Bentley, CBI deputy director-general.

"The gap between contributions and the value of benefits being promised is £10 billion a year and growing."

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