Government’s concessions described as “marginal”

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Union leaders have said they will press ahead with plans to strike on November 30th, describing the government’s concessions on pensions as “marginal”.

Unions say the original proposals will see public servants working longer, paying more for their pensions and receiving less when they retire.

Union negotiators from the public sector group (PSLG) met with government ministers on November 2nd, after which they released the following statement:  “Danny Alexander and Francis Maude outlined a number of new proposals to the TUC negotiating team, including an improvement in the proposed accrual rates within the major public service schemes compared to their previous position, and new proposed transitional protections for those closest to retirement. They also indicated a long-term commitment to any agreed reforms not being reopened within the next 25 years.”

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber told UnionNews: “It’s a positive move and we welcome that, but while there are areas where the government have made a move, there are areas where they haven’t moved. So that leaves a very difficult negotiation. I’m in no doubt that the government’s been persuaded to move because of a real sense of pressure and the determination that’s been shown by union members to support the campaign for decent pensions.  As to the timing of this offer – it’s rather late, but better late than never.”

Speaking to UnionNews after a rally in London of more than 100 Unite and GMB reps and officials from across the UK, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “The government will always try to divide workers, we’ve got to ensure that they don’t divide us.  We have to be careful that they don’t try to trick us into division.

“The most important thing is that we have to try to find out if what they are saying in the talks is meaningful.  My gut feeling is that what’s on offer will not be enough to stop the dispute on the 30th of November.  But this is more than a dispute about pensions, this is about a wider attack on everything we hold dear.”

Other unions preparing to strike at the end of the month say they will press ahead with plans for industrial action.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Any new offer is always welcome but the latest concessions are only marginal and would still force public servants to pay more in and work longer for less in retirement.

“Effectively ministers are saying they will only raid pensions by slightly less than they were planning to. The money raised will still go straight to the Treasury to pay off the deficit, not into pension schemes that have been shown to be affordable now and in future.

“It should be remembered that this latest offer was only wrung out of ministers by the threat of mass industrial action on 30 November, and following our successful strike with other unions in June.

“We will look at the details to see how they affect our members, but we continue our plans to make 30 November the biggest strike we have ever seen.”

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “If it wasn’t for the strength of feeling amongst public sector workers, the government would have never made this change to their original and dreadful proposals. This is welcome, but it is a first step. Now the negotiations with the government can begin in earnest, but there is no time to waste. There is still along way to go and Unite remains committed to the Day of Action on November 30th.

“It is absolutely vital that we continue to campaign and keep up the fantastic work union representatives and members are doing across the public sector to defend public sector pensions.”

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: “We welcome the fact that the government has finally, after pressure from strike action in June, our lobby of Parliament last week and proposed action in November, conceded some ground. This is certainly a different stance from Danny Alexander’s pronouncements in the summer when he insisted there would be no further offers.

“What is not helpful is the Prime Minister and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury continuing to misrepresent the reality of teachers’ pensions. The average teachers’ pension in payment is approximately £10,000 and many, particularly women, will receive far less. The claim that the government’s proposals would make teachers better off is, I am afraid, nonsense.

“The NUT Executive will now be considering the implications of the government’s proposals. We will be in discussion with the TUC and other teacher unions over the coming weeks. We will continue to seek a negotiated settlement. However, preparation for strike action on November 30 will still go ahead.”


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