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Alexander sours union pension talks

The Government’s negotiations with unions over public sector pension reforms are in jeopardy after Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander’s “inflammatory” intervention.

In a speech last Friday, Alexander appeared to pre-empt final discussions with union chiefs by announcing plans to increase contributions for public sector employees earning more than £18,000 by an average of 3.2 per cent by 2014/15.

Under the measures, which the Treasury has since insisted are proposals rather than final Government policy, people earning less than £15,000 would have their pension contributions frozen.

Employees earning between £15,000 and £18,000 would see their contribution increase capped at 1.5 per cent.

Announcing the proposals, Alexander accused some unions of “misrepresenting” the Government’s position. He said: “There are a minority of unions who seem hell bent on premature strike action before these discussions are even complete. To justify strike action, they are misrepresenting the Government’s position and feeding their members scare stories.

“I say to members of those unions, a strike now might be in the union boss’s interests but it is not in yours. Don’t let them sacrifice your pension for their political platform.”

Trades Union Congress general secretary Brendan Barber attacked Alexander’s “clumsy intervention”. He said: “At such a critical time in complex negotiations, this is a deeply inflammatory public intervention with a clumsy mix of announcements apparently designed to pre-empt talks, coupled with crude threats that even worse terms might be imposed if unions refuse to acquiesce to this assault on their pensions.

“Many of the detailed proposals set out by Danny Alexander have not even been put to the TUC negotiators, and the Government has yet to give a response to specific proposals tabled by the trade union side.”

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