Pension talks fail to stop strikes
A strike by hundreds of thousands of teachers, lecturers, civil servants and other public sector workers will go ahead despite talks aimed at resolving a bitter row over pensions.
Up to 750,000 members of four trade unions will walk out for 24 hours on Thursday, closing thousands of schools in England and Wales and causing disruption to Government services across the UK.
The TUC has welcomed moves by the Government to meet again next month after ministers said they recognised that the funding basis for the scheme covering local government workers was different.
But Mark Serwotka, leader of the Public and Commercial Services union, said the talks were a "farce", accusing the Government of having no interest in negotiating on plans to cut pensions, extend the retirement age and increase contributions.
Association of Teachers and Lecturers leader Mary Bousted said: "We are disappointed, but not particularly surprised that the Government has yet again refused to give us the information we need to carry out negotiations about teachers' and lecturers' pensions."
The meeting at the Cabinet Office in Whitehall lasted two hours and was described as "constructive" by Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander.
They expressed disappointment that Thursday's strike is going ahead, adding: "We can assure the public that we have rigorous contingency plans in place to ensure that their essential services are maintained during the strike."
The National Association of Head Teachers said it had "grave concerns" about a call by Education Secretary Michael Gove that parents could volunteer to cover for striking teachers.
General secretary Russell Hobby said: "It is probably not unlawful but we would strongly advise our members not to accept voluntary help to cover for absent staff this Thursday."
In a joint statement, Mr Maude and Mr Alexander said: "We believe both sides have a responsibility to see the talks through and we would urge public workers not to strike while they are ongoing."