Further strikes are likely over plans to curb public pensions
More rises in payments are expected over the following two years so the Treasury can cut the bill by £2.8bn a year
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Friday 29 July 2011
Trade Union leaders warned that an "autumn of discontent" had come a step nearer yesterday after the Government refused to water down plans to curb public-sector pensions.
Ministers outlined plans to raise pension contributions by an average 3.2 per cent for 2.5 million teachers, civil servants and NHS workers from next April, insisting the £1bn of savings they would bring had already been pencilled in by the previous government.
Detailed talks on the proposals will take place over the next month before ministers and TUC leaders resume their negotiations in September. Unless the Government softens its stance then, a series of co-ordinated strikes looks likely. Brendan Barber, the general secretary of the TUC, said: "Only if the Government demonstrates real flexibility in the coming talks and shows that it is genuinely listening and prepared to change course, will it avoid more unions... planning industrial action later this year."
He warned that millions of public-sector workers, already in the middle of a wage freeze and facing a huge squeeze on their living standards, would be forced to pay significantly more into their pensions. Ministers argued that yesterday's figures should come as no surprise and did not alter the prospects of reaching agreement with the unions. They pointed out that no one earning under £15,000 a year would face higher pension contributions.
Danny Alexander, the Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said the proposals were the latest step towards putting public-service pensions on a sustainable path. "We are ensuring that those with the broadest shoulders will bear the greatest burden. The lowest paid will be protected, and the highest paid will face the biggest increases," he said.
Further rises in payments are expected over the following two years to enable the Treasury to cut the public-sector pensions bill by £2.8bn a year. Detailed proposals for local government, the fire and police services will be published shortly. Firefighters became the latest group of workers to warn that industrial action is on the cards. The Fire Brigades Union, which is consulting its members, said there was growing support for action and a ballot on a nationwide strike is likely soon.
Teachers and heads warned that schools could be disrupted again by strike action this autumn. The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, the only one of the big three teaching unions not to walk out on a one-day strike last month, said it was committed to industrial action to protect pensions.
Chris Keates, its general secretary, said: "It is grossly unjust that teachers and other public-service workers, who are already facing an imposed pay freeze, [are] being faced with paying what is in effect an additional tax for a financial crisis they did not create."
Under the Government's plans, a headteacher earning £100,000 a year would have to pay an extra £2,000 in contributions next year. The blow would be softened for lower-paid teachers – those starting on £21,000 a year would only pay an extra £128 a year.
- 1 Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto buy a stake in Reddit as A-list invests $50m
- 3 Ed Sheeran dedicates song to David Cameron
- 4 Now we know whose fault it is if you end up being murdered in Thailand
- 5 35,000 walrus gather ashore on north-west Alaska beach 'for a rest'
Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto buy a stake in Reddit as A-list invests $50m
Five-year-old Iris Grace is raising awareness of autism through her extraordinary paintings
Car tax disc changes: Five facts you never knew about your (almost obsolete) tax disc
The Aral Sea: Nasa pictures show how what was once the fourth largest lake in the world has become almost completely dry
Amal Alamuddin: Human rights lawyer's legal chambers forced to upgrade website following George Clooney wedding
Isis, we are told, is a 'clear and dangerous threat to our way of life'. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy it
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
The Osborne Ultimatum: Chancellor’s benefits freeze bombshell will affect ten million households
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
- < Previous
- Next >
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...
£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...
Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...