Unions committed to public sector strikes despite new offer on pensions

Public sector unions have said that they are “firmly committed” to continuing preparations for a planned day of industrial action at the end of the month, despite a new offer from the Government on pensions.

The Government set out details of its new public service pensions offer, which it claims will ensure that most low and middle earners in the public sector receive at least as good a pension as they do now once the reforms come into force.

The offer includes a more generous accrual rate, alongside the protection of pensions for any public service worker within 10 years of their pension age on 1 April 2011.

However, the Government admitted that most public sector employees will have to work longer and pay more into their pensions because of the reforms.

The TUC welcomed the movement in the Government’s position but stated that, unless more progress is made in the negotiations, unions will continue preparations for the planned day of action on 30 November.

In a statement, the TUC’s Public Services Liaison Group (PSLG) said: “All the unions have indicated throughout this process their determination to reach a negotiated settlement on all these issues. That remains the position and unions will engage intensively in the coming weeks.

“But unless and until further real progress is made and acceptable offers are made within those negotiations, unions remain firmly committed to continuing their preparations for the planned day of action on 30 November.”

The PSLG added that the proposals will now need to be considered in detail within the sector-specific negotiations, alongside other issues such as the planned contribution increases.

The minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, said that the Government has been “absolutely committed” to engaging with the unions on making necessary reforms to public sector pensions.

“We have listened to the concerns of public service workers and responded,” Maude said. “It is now time for the unions to respond in a responsible manner and remember that industrial action will cause unnecessary disruption to small businesses and working people up and down the country who themselves do not have access to such generous pension schemes.”

This week, Stephen Blunt, partner at law firm Clyde & Co, suggested that the Government could stop widespread industrial action by encouraging public sector employers to seek a court injunction. However, experts warned that this could cause deeper problems in public sector workforces.

Read a full analysis of the possibility of public sector employers using court injunctions to stop strike action here.

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