Civil service unions to take strike action

"Massive majorities" of public sector workers have voted in favour of strike action over the proposed rise in the pension age, it has been announced.

Ballots conducted by Amicus, the Transport and General Workers Union, UCATT and UNISON recorded votes of between 73% and 87% in favour of a one-day strike across the UK on March 23. These unions, as well as Britain's General Union, the GMB and the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), are angered that raises in the retirement and pension age are being made a year ahead of other public services.

The unions, who represent 1.4 million employees, had held talks with Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and national employers last night. Although no agreement was reached, the talks were described as "constructive". Further talks, aimed at averting a strike, will go ahead next week.

UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis, said: "Our members who have paid their pension contributions week in, week out are very angry and are not prepared to accept changes by diktat. The average local government pension is just £3,800 a year - not a 'fat cat' sum. Low pay within councils means low pensions."

John Dromey, T&G Deputy General Secretary added: "Government and local government should now sit down with the trade unions to negotiate a sensible solution which ensures the long-term viability of a good pension scheme."

Alan Ritchie, UCATT General Secretary said that their members were "extremely concerned" about their pension provision and said: "The ballot result shows the determination of our members to protect their pension scheme."

Amicus National Officer, Gail Cartmail said:" Progress is being made but passions are running high. If the strike on the March 23 goes ahead public sector workers will make it a big day. We hope that in the coming week the Government will meet our demands and maintain a public sector pension that recognises the contribution these key workers make to the running of our public services."

GMB General Secretary Kevin Curran said that GMB branch ballots would be coming in over the next couple of days and said that "a large vote in favour of industrial action" was expected.


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