Mass strike ballots will go ahead, say unions


Brendan Barber: "As things stand we are still a long way apart"

Unions say they will go ahead with ballots for mass strike action over pensions, after talks with ministers fail to reach a breakthrough.

Several unions are holding votes on a "day of action" on 30 November, in protest at plans to increase pension contributions by public sector workers.

They say changes the are unfair and financially unnecessary.

But ministers insist that pension contributions must be increased to make schemes sustainable.

The meeting, between the TUC-led delegation and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander and Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, followed months of inconclusive discussions.

'Not appropriate'

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber told the BBC there had been no "dramatic change", with the two sides still "a long way apart", but promised there would be further talks.

He added: "Unions will continue to step up their efforts with the ballots of their members and planning of industrial action.

"But we remain absolutely committed to this process, to try to see if it's possible to reach a negotiated settlement without the need for that industrial action."

Nine unions - including Unison, Unite, the Fire Brigades' Union, Prospect and the GMB - announced at the TUC's annual conference last week that they were preparing to ballot for industrial action or to register "trade disputes" with the government.

Four others who took industrial action in June - the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the National Union of Teachers, the Public and Commercial Services Union and University and College Union - do not need to hold another ballot if they want to strike.

And the National Union of Head Teachers - which has never organised a strike in its 114-year history - announced on Thursday that it would ballot members, starting on 29 September.

'Constructive proposals'

However, the British Medical Association Council said on Wednesday that it had decided this course was "not appropriate" for its members, but did not rule out "industrial action of some kind in the future".

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "We are totally committed to genuine engagement with the unions. We have a lot to talk about and there are proposals on the table for discussion."

He added that unions had to make "constructive proposals", saying: "It is extremely disappointing that the TUC is calling on union members to lose a day's pay and go on strike while serious talks are still ongoing."

Asked to condemn the strike plans in an interview with New Statesman magazine, Labour leader Ed Miliband - who was jeered at the TUC conference last week when he declined to back calls for action - said: "I'm not going to get into hypotheticals about strikes that may or may not happen.

"What I'm going to do is say government has a responsibility to properly negotiate and they're not doing it and they've got to do it.

"The unions have to make their own judgement about what they do."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 312.


    Well, we all need each other – for every plumber patching up your pipes you have doctors, dentists, teachers and many others contributing to the general welfare.

    Yet there is something fundamentally wrong where one group is hell bent on retaining their privileges, largely paid for by the private sector, despite the same private sector losing theirs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 303.

    I fully support the strikers. Why should the working people lose out again when our politicians have INCREDIBLE salaries, benefits, private healthcare and FAIRYTALE pensions ???
    It's time we cut MP's, MEP's, Barristers and Judges pay and pensions - their astronomical costs are unsustainable and are bleeding our nation dry.
    One day of action is nothing - the strike will have to be longer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 300.

    All the comments saying we'd be in a mess without the services of the public sector and therfore infering that they should somehow get better treatment. Well who do you call if your boiler breaks down, a social worker? Where do you go to get your food, who builds the houses you live in, who drills the oil? The private sector is just as important to our lives and crucially they earn the money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    Actually this is a great way to reduce costs - presumably the public sector workers will not be paid when on strike. The only thing the government needs to ensure is that the police dont go on strike otherwise it would be a looters paradise (of the retail variety - the bank based looters seem to get away with it - the benefit of thinking big!).

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    Despite the end of the final salary scheme a few years ago public sector workers are now being targetted with even smaller pensions, a longer work life, higher contributions and pay cuts. That this has been done by profit-motivated companies in the private sector is not a justification. It is merely part of the divide and rule in the race to the bottom to allow even higher pay for fat cats.


Comments 5 of 8


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