400,000 public sector workers set to strike over 'cruel' and 'unfair' pension reforms


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The Independent Online

Almost 400,000 public sector workers could strike over the Government’s controversial pension reforms, slamming George Osborne’s “cruel” and “unfair” attempts to save the Treasury tens of billions of pounds.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union and Unite will take action on May 10, the day after the Queen’s Speech, which is expected to announce a Parliamentary bill on pension changes.

The PCS, which has 290,000 workers in 200 Government departments, promised further action after 90.5 per cent of those balloted voted to reject the Government’s pension offer. Both national and regional protests are expected, as well as another strike in June. Meanwhile, Unite said its 100,000 NHS members faced paying £30 extra per month into their pension pots amidst a backdrop of pay freezes and the prospect of a regional pay scale. Their combined memberships mean that May 10 could signal the biggest strike since November 30, when more than one million public sector workers took industrial action.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The ongoing programme of industrial action with other unions we have agreed sends a clear message to Government ministers that we do not accept their unnecessary plans to force public servants to pay more and work longer for less in retirement.”

“We will continue to show that there is an alternative to this Government's cruel and unfair cuts that clearly are not working.”

Speaking on behalf of Unite’s health members, who voted by more than 9-1 to reject the pension changes, National officer Rachael Maskell claimed the Government was “picking the pockets of health workers”, saying: “In the face of continued attacks, health workers will be stepping up their campaign and looking to join other public sector workers in taking action on May 10.”

The Police Federation, however, expressed concerns that the public sector strike could overshadow its own planned march, also scheduled for May 10. The event, a demonstration across central London, was meant to highlight the “destruction” that could be wrought by 20 per cent cuts to the police.

Metin Enver, spokesman Police Federation of England & Wales, said: “At the moment we’re not sure what the impact will be on our event. Clearly we’ll need to assess what the impact is on our own event – some of our members might find that they have leave cancelled if there are work requirements.

But the British public will have to endure strikes as early as Tuesday. Workers who maintain London’s Tube lines will walk out at 4 pm on April 24, and return at he same time on Friday. The disruption is expected to effect the Piccadilly, Northern and Jubilee lines. The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) general secretary Bob Crow said his members were simply seeking “basic rights” in being allowed to join the Transport for London pension scheme, but London Mayor Boris Johnson said: “It will come as no surprise to Londoners that, a week before the mayoral election, Ken Livingstone's RMT friend Bob Crow is trying to hit hard-working Londoners and businesses.”