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Public sector pensions talks have 'concluded'

image captionThe dispute over public sector pensions has been continuing for some time

The government has pushed ahead with a final plan for public sector pensions as talks with unions come to an end.

Discussions on changes to health, education and civil service pensions were "constructive", according to a Treasury minister.

These have led to a final set of proposals which will now be considered by union executives.

But union leaders have said that "serious matters" in the pensions debate remain outstanding.

Strike action

The government wants to save billions of pounds from its pension bill.

It is planning to make substantial increases in employee contributions in three stages between April this year and April 2015.

Then it plans to bring in new, and less generous, career average pension schemes for most public sector employees, with the pension age rising in line with the increasing state pension age, eventually to 68.

The plans led to a huge nationwide strike at the end of November.

At the end of December, some unions signed up to a set of points for further discussions, although others have threatened further strike action.

'Fair deal'

The Treasury said that these discussions had now come to an end and some proposed final agreements had been published.

"These agreements mean that public servants who have dedicated their lives to serving the public will rightly continue to receive pensions that are among the very best available, while delivering the government's key objectives in full," said Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander.

"This is a fair deal for public service workers and an affordable deal for the taxpayer."

Some unions will now take these proposals to their executives for discussion, but the tone from various unions in response to the final proposals has been starkly different.

Brian Strutton, national officer of the GMB union, said: "GMB members in the NHS and civil service will now have the chance to cast their verdict on the government's final proposals.

"Although we have done our best to improve these during the negotiations, there remain some very difficult issues that our members will need to weigh up. In addition there are some serious matters outstanding, including future contributions and how costs will be managed."

But the NUT said it already turned down the government's plan.

image captionThe pensions dispute led to a large walkout of public sector workers in November

"The NUT has not signed up to these proposals and neither has the majority of the other teacher unions, representing the vast majority of teachers," said NUT general secretary Christine Blower.

"We are still willing to negotiate an agreement but we cannot accept our members being asked to pay so much more and work so much longer for their pensions and receive so much less in retirement."

'Ludicrous charade'

The PCS union, the biggest civil service trade union, has threatened more strike action.

"Ministers' obstinacy means we have this ludicrous charade of what is now our fourth 'final' offer, with previous ones being desperate attempts to avert strikes and a failed bid to bounce us into accepting an arbitrary deadline before Christmas," said general secretary Mark Serwotka.

"We will continue to talk to other unions about planning further widespread co-ordinated industrial action and there is as much reason as ever for our members to vote in our consultation ballot to reject these spiteful cuts."

But Unison said it would ballot its 450,000 members in the NHS over the final proposals.

"The final proposals on the new NHS pension scheme released today have changed significantly from where the negotiations first started," said Christina McAnea, the union's head of health.

"It is critical that our members have the final say on these proposals and we will meet with our key health activists before moving to a ballot."

Discussions about the local government pension scheme are ongoing between the government and unions.

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