Government accused of 'steamrollering' pension changes


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The Government published its final plans today for controversial reforms of health, education and civil service pensions, sparking accusations that it was "steamrollering" through the changes.

Discussions have continued since the start of the year in a bid to break the deadlocked row which sparked a strike by more than one-and-a-half million public sector workers last year and could lead to fresh industrial action later this month.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said there had been "constructive discussion" with unions on the final details of so-called heads of agreement set out at the end of last year.

"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.

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

But Unite accused the Government of "steamrollering" through its final offer on public sector pensions, having "avoided" any meaningful negotiations over the last year.

Assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: "The coalition's mask has finally dropped. They are pushing through a pensions package without having held real and genuine negotiations over the last year."

The National Union of Teachers also reacted angrily, saying it had not signed up to the proposals.

General secretary Christine Blower said: "It has been clear throughout a whole year of negotiations that the Government has never wanted an agreement. This Government has always intended to impose its own views and cut our pensions regardless of the case for not doing so."

Public and Commercial Services union general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "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.

"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."

Other unions, such as Unison, Prospect, the GMB and FDA, said they would study the final details of the deal and consult their members.

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

"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."

A Treasury statement said: "The agreements continue to deliver the Government's key objectives on linking normal pensions age to state pension age and moving to schemes based on career-average salary, while protecting those closest to retirement.

"While most workers will be asked to retire later and pay more towards their pension, at the same time, most low and middle earners working a full career will receive pension benefits at least as good, if not better, than they get now.

"Those less than 10 years from their normal pension age on 1 April 2012 will continue to be protected from these changes."

The Treasury said cost ceilings set last November remained unchanged, with no additional money made available.