Unions suspend industrial action and resume talks with employer over ‘rule of 85’

Local government unions have suspended further strike action over pension reforms after the resumption of talks to end the dispute.

Following nationwide protests last month, which saw up to a million council employees walk out, union leaders yesterday said they had agreed a framework for negotiation with the Local Government Association.

At the heart of the discussion are plans to scrap the ‘rule of 85’, which currently allows staff to retire at 60 if their combined age and years of service add up to 85 or more.

“I am very pleased that it has now been possible to agree a sensible framework for the detailed negotiations necessary on the future of the local government pension scheme,” said TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber. “These negotiations now offer a positive route forward to secure fairness and high quality pensions for all workers covered by the scheme in the future.”

However, CBI director-general Sir Digby Jones, said: “The worst possible outcome would be a hastily agreed deal to stop a strike without the necessary reforms of public sector pensions.”

Jones pointed to increased life expectancy and rising pension costs as trends that meant pension reform could not be avoided.

“The private sector knows this and has bitten the bullet,” he said. “The public sector must do so too, or the nation will end up paying the price.”

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