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Unions to ballot for sustained strike action over pensions

The Government could be facing a sustained campaign of strike action over its plans to reform public sector pensions after the Trades Union Congress unanimously backed a motion calling for coordinated action from unions.

Unison, GMB and Unite this morning confirmed they will ballot 1.65 million members over the action which they want to begin in late November and continue into next summer. The action will involve workers from the NHS, schools, colleges and universities as well as local and central government.

The Government says public sector pensions are unaffordable and must be reformed. Unions says that changes introduced by the previous Labour Government make them affordable in the long-term.

Unions and minister have been in negotiations about further reforms, but speaking at the TUC conference in London this morning, general secretary Brendan Barber (pictured) slammed the Government’s approach to the talks so far for saying “meaningful negotiations require two willing partners”.

He said: “Ministers have to come to the table with new ideas, and in a new spirit, to give those talks a chance to succeed. If those talks cannot make a breakthrough, unions are right and fully justified to plan for action.”

Opening the TUC debate on public sector pensions, Unison general secretary Dave Prentice said his union would ballot its 1.1 million members.

He said: “Now is the time to make our stand. It will be hard. We will be vilified, attacked, set against each other, public versus private, divide and rule. The oldest trick in the book.”

Also speaking at the conference, GMB national secretary for public services Brian Strutton said months of talks between the unions and Government had gone nowhere and that the union would use the strikes to force deal its members were happy with.

He said: “GMB is only one of many unions planning ballots for authority to take industrial action to begin in late November and to be sustained over the winter and into spring and summer of 2012.”


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There are 5 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Even after the proposed changes, I would be more than happy to swap my defined contribution pension arrangements for a career average defined benefit scheme. Having worked for almost 40 years already, I will not be able to retire when I had hoped as I just can`t afford to !! These people do not inhabit the REAL world, and YES you will be vilified. I and I suspect many more like me, are absolutely fed up to the back teeth of subsidising final salary schemes in the Public sector when pension arrangements in the Private sector have been decimated over the last 10 years or so.
    You are trying to defend the indefensible.

  2. Remind me of the pension arrangements enjoyed by our Members of Parliament.

    And why the sudden desire to be so overly aggressive in your language Steve? After all, we’re talking real people here, who do real, valuable jobs.. some on pretty poor wages compared with what they could get abroad or in the private sector – nurses, policemen, firemen, care workers. For some strange reason they seem to have a strong belief in public service.

    Have you always been ‘fed up to the back teeth’ about this? Or is it only in the past couple of the years, since the bankers screwed us over and we’re all facing a 10% cut in living standards – except a lot of those on the 50% tax bracket who somehow think that they shoiuld be exempt from any pain.

    And if your private scheme has been decimated – what have you done to protest about it?

  3. Mark
    The Coalition are also cutting MPs pensions.

    The Office for National Statistics data on earnings show the public sector earn more than the equivalent in the private sector. The statistics also show the average wage is higher in the public sector. Those statistics exclude extras like the generous holidays, 11 days sick average, pension benefits, job security and so on.

    An argument you have is that because 1% of the UK population (incl public sector and Drs) earn over £150k the private sector working classes can pay for their gold plated pensions. Its the working class masses that pay for those pensions in the main.

    Also don’t buy the banking thing. All the countries in trouble like Greece, Spain, Italy, Ireland etc are in trouble because they spend more than they earn on their public sector like us.

    We spent about £80 odd billion bailing the banks which we will largely get back. If the Coalition succeeds in balancing the books by 2015 the debt will be £1500 bn. Excluding liabilities and Brown’s off balancesheet borrowing.

    Every day the public sector strike is a day I don’t pay their wages – YIPEE!!!!!

    PS “what have you done to protest about it”
    Have you noticed that where there were bolshie unions in the private sector those firms went either bust or the whole industry was lost. In the private sector the economics have to work.

  4. If gold-plated, index-linked, Rolls Royce final salary public sector pensions are unaffordable, then striking isn’t going to change that fact and the government just cannot ~ absolutely must not ~ back down. Everybody in these straitened times is going to have to tighten their belts and I don’t see why public sector workers should be granted an opt-out from their share of the discomfort.

    The trouble is that these people, most of whom produce NOTHING, have no comprehension of real world economics. They just want everybody else to keep on paying.

    And, if they feel so aggrieved, then they’re entirely at liberty to seek alternative employment in the private sector.

    Apart from any other measures to economise, the government should put a stop to all these phoney redundancy early retirement deals with an enhanced pension and a fat lump sum on top. If somebody’s made redundant, then their redundancy payment should constitute the sum total of their severance package, just as would be the case in the private sector. Want to start drawing your pension early? Okay, what you’ll get is your years earned to date reduced by ½% for each month prior to NRA. Why should these people be accorded special treatment at massive expense to the tax payer?

    Even worse is when senior people get invited back on a “consultancy” basis, then being paid more than they were before their phoney redundancy early retirement. If their jobs are redundant, then how can there possibly be any justification for inviting them back on a “consultancy” basis? It’s just arrant tax payer fraud.

  5. I agree with Mark that this has only blown up since the bankers had us over and people want somebody to pick on, with the public sector employees being an easy target.
    A lot of you seem to be ignoring the research that show that public sector pension cost will be going down under the current rules. They are not unaffordable merely because the right wing press say they are. The Daily Mail have been particularly guilty about the comparative figures they have printed, which, it seems to me, are just plain untrue. I have recently effected quite a few annuities for people with private sector pensions and have been surprised at how much they have had in their funds for not that many years service.
    This country wastes an awful lot of money on things totally unrelated to public sector pensions and if you hate these people so much, when you call the police or an ambulance I hope you will have the courage to tell them that you are totally fed up with them and their ‘Gold Plated Pensions’.

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