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UK Politics

The Queen's Speech: Pensions bill to spark fresh storm


The Government sparked a fresh clash with unions after pressing ahead with its controversial reforms of public sector pensions ahead of a new strike by tens of thousands of workers.

A Public Service Pensions Bill was included in today's measures, aimed at implementing changes to the pensions of millions of workers despite continued opposition from unions.

The Government paper said: "It would establish a common framework across public service pension schemes.

"The changes would also ensure provision is sustainable and that costs and benefits between employers, workers and other taxpayers are balanced more fairly."

More than one and a half million workers went on strike in November in protest at the changes, which union leaders said would lead to employees paying more into their pension scheme, receiving less on retirement, and working longer before they could retire.

Civil servants, lecturers, health workers, Ministry of Defence staff, immigration officers, off-duty police officers and members of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary will be among those joining more strikes and other forms of protest tomorrow.

Union leaders said up to 400,000 workers could be involved, and pledged to continue campaigning against the reforms.

The Government insisted that public service workers will continue to receive a good pension, with those on low and middle incomes who retire after a full career receiving a pension at least as good as they do now.

Bob Crow, leader of the rail Maritime and Transport union, whose members at the Royal Fleet Auxiliary will be on strike tomorrow, said: "We will be sending the clearest message to the Government that we will defend our pensions to the hilt and the demand that our members should work longer, pay more and get less will be thrown back in the faces of this Government of millionaire public schoolboys.

"The hammering the ConDems took in the polls last week should serve as a wake-up call from working men and women that we will not roll over and take the hit.

"It's the bankers and the bosses who have gambled with our country's future and the men and women who provide the lifeline services to the Royal Navy fleet should not have to tolerate a worse pension and be forced to work longer to make up for their mistakes."

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, said: "Confirmation that the Government intends to plough on with unpopular, unnecessary and unfair cuts to public sector pensions is disappointing but not unexpected.

"Ministers have consistently refused to negotiate with us over the key issues of forcing public servants to pay more and work longer for less in retirement, and that is why hundreds of thousands of them will be on strike tomorrow.

"With the country back in recession and unemployment remaining high, it is clear to everyone that austerity isn't working. Instead of more cuts we desperately need investment in jobs and public services to get our economy moving again."