Pensions: Ministers 'accept' strikes likely to happen

The government are threatening to withdraw their improved pensions offer to public sector workers if agreement cannot be reached with trade unions.

However the BBC has learnt that provided serious negotiations continue, ministers accept that planned strikes and a day of action on the 30th November are likely to go ahead. In part this is because - thanks to trade union laws passed by a previous Conservative government - unions would have to re-ballot their members at enormous cost if they wanted to have strikes at a later date.

Ministers are hoping that their new promise to maintain both the pensions and the retirement age of workers who are within 10 years of retiring will reassure older workers - who are more likely to be union members than younger workers.

In addition, they hope that today's improved terms will mean that unions can no longer claim that public sector workers are being asked to work longer, pay more and get less. Lower and middle earners - a category which ministers have yet to define - will now be asked to work longer, pay more but get at least as much as they get now.

These concessions will, of course, have to be paid for. The bill - which ministers are refusing to reveal - will be picked up by public sector workers on higher salaries and by the taxpayer - which may not please the millions who are not public sector workers and who wish they had pensions as generous.

It won't have to be paid until after 2015 - after, that is, the government's promise to deal with the deficit and after, you spotted it, the next general election.