‘No chance’ of last-minute deal to stop pension strike

28 Nov 11
This week’s public sector strikes will go ahead, with ‘no chance whatever’ of a deal before the walkout on Wednesday, the general secretary of Unison has said.

By Richard Johnstone and Nick Mann | 28 November 2011

This week’s public sector strikes will go ahead, with ‘no chance whatever’ of a deal before the walkout on Wednesday, the general secretary of Unison has said.

Unison protest

Speaking ahead of the action, Dave Prentis said today that the action over planned pension changes could be the biggest since the 1926 General Strike. According to the Trades Union Congress, as many as 2 million workers from some 30 unions are expected to take part.

More than 1,000 demonstrations are planned across the country, which Prentis said would show the government that ‘enough is enough and we will stand up for our pensions’.

Among the demonstrations will be a rally in Birmingham that will be attended by Prentis and TUC general secretary Brendan Barber.

Prentis said: ‘The overwhelming majority of our members will be taking action, across health, local government, the police, community services and in the private sector.

‘The action that is being taken is the only way that the people who care for us can show what they’re worth.’

He added that there had been no central negotiations on the changes, which include contribution increases and a higher retirement age, since the government announced a revised offer on November 2. In the local government scheme, which most Unison members are part of, there has been only one 20 minute meeting so far this month, he said.

The government has reiterated that pensions need to be reformed to deal with increasing longevity, and has warned that the current offer might be withdrawn if agreement is not reached by the end of the year.

Prentis described the deadlines as ‘really unrealistic’, adding that there might be further action in the New Year if negotiations are unsuccessful.

‘We balloted for strike action, not just for one day,’ he said.’ We want to reach agreement through discussion. If that doesn’t happen then we are in a position to take [further] industrial action.’

He also said that some government ministers were being ‘really unhelpful’ in making public comments, despite not being part of the negotiations between the government and the unions.

His comments come as Education Secretary Michael Gove urged teachers and other public sector workers to ‘think again’ about striking on Wednesday.

Speaking in London this morning, Gove said the pensions offer made by the government to teachers was a ‘good deal’, and that pensions change was ‘vital’ to cover the rising cost of teachers’ pensions. This would reach £10bn by 2015/16, compared to £5bn in 2005/06, he said.

‘This week’s strikes will not change any of these facts. They will not make the tough decisions any easier. But they will force tens of thousands of parents to scrabble around for emergency childcare or plead with their bosses for a day off. And they will deprive children of a days’ schooling.’

Gove also raised the prospect of a settlement being imposed by government.

‘I hope that many people will decide not to strike,’ he said. ‘But I also hope that on Thursday morning, those who did strike will reflect, think again about our offer and come to the conclusion that it is indeed a good deal, because if we don’t reach agreement then change will have to be imposed.’


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