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Prospect of strike action increases

The prospect of a strike by millions of public sector workers increased tonight after union leaders accused the Government of refusing to listen to arguments against increasing pension contributions for council workers.

The GMB union said Communities Secretary Eric Pickles had not listened to advice from unions, employers, actuaries or pension funds and was pressing ahead with plans to make local government employees pay more, work longer and receive less pension.

National officer Brian Strutton said the move proved unions were right to ballot workers for strikes, set to start on the TUC's day of action on November 30.

The Communities and Local Government Department published a statement on its website detailing proposals to deliver savings of £900 million by 2014/15 to the local government pension scheme in England and Wales.

A consultation proposed a "balanced mix" of increasing employee contributions and adjusting accrual rates.

The department's statement proposed a progressively phased increase in employees' contributions from April 2012 that would raise an additional £450 million, or 1.5% of pay, and a change in the accrual rate from April 2013 to raise an additional £450 million, or 1.5% of pay.

Local Government Minister Bob Neill said: "Lord Hutton's report sets out why public sector pensions need to be reformed to more fairly protect taxpayers.

"Today's pension proposals set out a way to save £900 million over the next three years that protects low earners from excessive increases - those who earn less will be asked to pay in less than high earners in the Scheme.

"We will continue to engage with local government and trade unions throughout the consultation as they have a key role to play. We hope all parties will take the time to consider these proposals in a constructive manner."

Mr Strutton said: "Eric Pickles has not listened to any advice from unions, employers, actuaries or pension funds and has today announced that he wants council workers to pay more, work longer and get less pension.

"This is despite the local government pension scheme being funded and healthy. Pickles has confirmed that savings are not to support the pension scheme but are to go to councils and other employers.

"This proves why GMB and other trade unions were right to call an industrial action ballot. It is an immoral, unjustified, cynical raid on the pension savings of some of the lowest paid workers in the economy."

The country's biggest unions have announced plans to ballot public sector workers for strikes, setting themselves on a collision course with the Government.