21/03/2005

Potential pension row strike averted

A one-day strike over proposed public sector pension changes has been called off by the unions involved.

The proposed strike, which was due to take place on Wednesday, was called off after the government agreed to review local government pensions and negotiate with the unions.

The government had planned to introduce changes to public sector pensions, including a controversial rise in the pension age from 60 to 65, from April 1. The decision prompted several of the country's biggest unions, including Unison, the Transport and General Worker's Union and Amicus, to ballot their members about possible strike action.

However, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott announced plans to revoke the pension changes and to begin consultation on new regulations.

Mr Prescott said that what was required was "an affordable long-term settlement, which is fair to current and future generations". He announced plans to establish a tripartite committee, which would he would chair, to "consider and negotiate" the long-term future of the Local Government Pension Scheme.

The Deputy Prime Minister said that he would be meeting with employers and unions "as soon as possible" to discuss new plans with "nothing ruled in or ruled out". He said: "It is the government's belief that all those who keep our vital public services going deserve safe and secure pensions. With an issue of so much importance to so many people, it helps no one that there have been misunderstandings and suspicions of these reforms. We have listened to concerns and recognise the need to get this right for the long-term. Rather than rush and risk getting the policy wrong, we want to ensure we get it right and carry the people affected with us."

The unions have welcomed the government's decision. T&G Deputy General Secretary Jack Dromey said: "One million workers need now no longer fear poorer pensions from April 1. Next, we will negotiate with government, central and local, a sensible long-term solution, ensuring security and dignity in retirement for the nation's public servants."

Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis said: "The strike is off but I have no doubt that had it gone ahead on Wednesday we would have seen a massive show of strength and solidarity across public services."

Alan Ritchie, Ucatt General Secretary said: "We now look forward to meaningful negotiations to deliver a pension scheme that brings dignity in retirement to council building workers."

(KmcA)


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