Public sector workers close to pension deal


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The chance of further strikes by public sector workers has receded significantly after doctors, nurses and health workers announced they were close to a deal with the Government on reforms to their pension scheme.

Union officials representing NHS workers said the outline of an agreement had been reached with ministers that would be put to union executives and their members in the new year. A deal has also been done with local government workers, subject to a sign-off by Eric Pickles, the Local Government Secretary, which could be announced as soon as today.

Without the support of health and local Government unions, the effect of further strike action by other public sector workers would be lessened. Yesterday's partial agreements also suggest that the Government's "divide and rule" tactic of splitting off the more moderate unions has been successful.

This was underlined when the Public and Commercial Services union, which represents civil servants, said it was rejecting the Government's proposals. Its general secretary, Mark Serwotka, said "nothing had changed" since last month's day of action.

In contrast, TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said last night that "a new atmosphere" had been apparent in negotiations since the strike.

"We have reached a stage where the emphasis in most cases is in giving active consideration to the new proposals that have emerged rather than considering the prospect of further industrial action," he said.

Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, is expected to make a statement on pension reform to the House of Commons today.

Unison confirmed it has received a final offer from the Government on NHS pensions, and agreed to take it back to its health service executive. Under the proposals, staff less than 10 years away from retirement would not face any change to their pension, and those earning less than £26,000 would be protected from an increase in contributions next year.

The future of the teachers' pension scheme remained unclear last night. Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "There was some movement, but we have taken the view that there was insufficient movement."

* London Mayor Boris Johnson is taking a transport union to the high court in an attempt to head off a Tube drivers' strike on Boxing Day. Transport for London is claiming Aslef broke the law when it balloted employees in a dispute over bank holiday shifts and pay.