Headteachers, doctors, top civil servants and police chiefs joined forces last night with major trade unions to present a united front against changes to public-sector pensions that look likely to trigger a summer of industrial discontent.
Ministers were warned they would face a backlash that would bring together professional organisations and traditionally militant unions if the Government implemented proposals from the Labour peer Lord Hutton for a radical overhaul of pensions.
Lecturers are set to walk out within weeks over changes to |pensions and teachers and civil servants are planning to ballot members next month on industrial action.
The GMB union said the Hutton plans could “light the blue touch paper for industrial action”, while the Public and Commercial Services union said strikes were inevitable if the proposals were implemented.
Union leaders will meet the Government next week over moves that have already been announced to raise public-sector employees' pension contributions by 3%.
But the situation has been inflamed by Lord Hutton's key recommendation that public-sector workers should lose their final salary pensions and instead be enrolled in schemes linked to their average pay.
The Government would not be drawn on his plans, but George Osborne, the Chancellor, is |expected to indicate in the Budget on March 23 that he is sympathetic to most of them.