Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Mass strike looms after unions reject pension offer

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber says public sector workers will press ahead with strike plans

Northern Ireland is facing the worst strike action in its history after trade unions rejected the latest government proposals on public sector pension reform.

The proposed mass walkout — which is likely to bring public services in Northern Ireland to their knees on November 30 — looks set to go ahead after the latest offer was rejected by unions.

Hours after receiving details of the new offer from chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander and Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, union leaders said they welcomed the proposed changes, but they were not enough to call off the planned walkout.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said there were still ‘major areas of concern’ over the government's proposals to increase pension contributions.

Brian Campfield, the general secretary of Northern Ireland’s largest public sector trade union Nipsa, said: “The limited improvements announced today by the government reflect panic in trying to avoid mass industrial action on November 30 by public sector workers.”

Mr Campfield said the proposals do not change the fact that most public servants over the next three years will have to pay up to 6% more for a pension that

will be paid at a much later date. He continued: “The facts are that public service workers will from next April, pay more, work longer and lose out on the overall value of their pension.

“For example, a civil servant earning £23,760 will pay an extra £760 per year and work seven years longer to set the pension they are currently entitled to and then lose an average of £16,420 on that pension if paid over 20 years due to the switch to CPI.”

Ministers had earlier maintained that the new offer would benefit employees in teaching, local government, the NHS and other parts of the public sector.

The Prime Minister told MPs |public sector workers will get more from their pensions under the government's proposals.

David Cameron said public sector pensions would still be “far better” than many available to those working for private firms.

At Prime Minister's questions, he said: “We’ll actually see low and middle-income earners getting more from their public sector pensions.”

A statement issued by Unite in Northern Ireland said while the government has made a change in its original proposals, it is small relative to the losses their overall proposals involve.

It said: “Unite, with other unions, is committed to continuing negotiations to try and improve the offer further.”

Quotes

Unite assistant Irish secretary Jimmy Kelly said: “If it wasn't for the strength of feeling amongst public sector workers, the Government would have never made this change to their original and dreadful proposals. This is welcome, but it is a first step. Now the negotiations with the Government can begin in earnest but there is no time to waste. There is still along way to go.”

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