Belfast Telegraph

Workers to strike over reform of pensions

By Lesley-Anne Henry

Thousands of public sector workers across Northern Ireland are due to go on strike tomorrow to protest against controversial government pension reforms.

Up to 3,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union in jobcentres, tax offices, Government departments, courts and airports are expected to stage a 24-hour walkout.

Driving tests are also expected be cancelled and customs checks at ports affected, while picket lines will be mounted outside Government departments.

A meeting between ministers and trade union leaders in London yesterday made some progress on the future of the local government pension scheme, but the talks were described as a "farce" by PCS leader Mark Serwotka, who accused the Government of having no interest in negotiating on plans to cut pensions, extend the retirement age and increase contributions.

PCS members include staff at the Customs and Revenue, Ministry of Defence, Passport Office, British Council and the UK Border Agency.

Northern Ireland regional chairman Barney Loan urged the public to be sympathetic.

"This action is about more than pensions," he said. "It is about jobs and services and the protection of those jobs and services."

Yesterday Prime Minister David Cameron said the unions were wrong to go on strike.

Addressing the annual conference of the Local Government Group in Birmingham, he claimed reform was "essential", and warned that the pension system was in danger of "going broke" because people were living much longer.

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