Unions condemn pension reform moves
Firefighters are set to be balloted for strikes after public sector union leaders rounded on the Government for "crudely" releasing details of its controversial pension reforms mid-way through crucial talks.
Leaders of teachers, nurses, civil servants, firefighters and other public sector workers attacked ministers after they published their proposals to increase employee contributions.
Under the changes, nurses and classroom teachers earning £25,700 will pay an extra £10 a month for their pension in 2012/13, an NHS consultant on £130,000 will pay an extra £152 a month, while civil servants will see their contributions rise by between £20 and £140 a month.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said the Government wanted to set a "fairer balance" between what workers and the taxpayer contribute towards public sector pensions, pledging that the lowest paid will be protected and the highest earners will face the biggest increases.
Around 750,000 workers should pay nothing extra and another one million should pay no more than 1.5% extra, although the proposals would deliver around £1 billion of savings, said the Government.
But union leaders said workers had been "frightened" by the announcement, which Unison's Dave Prentis warned had jeopardised the ongoing negotiations.
"We entered into the scheme specific talks on public sector pensions in good faith and we genuinely believe we are making progress, albeit slowly. But these talks are being put in jeopardy by the crude and naive tactics of Government ministers who don't seem to understand the word negotiate.
"The Government must take its responsibilities seriously, and stop treating these talks like some kind of playground game," he said.
The Fire Brigades Union said it is making preliminary arrangements for a strike ballot. The union is opposed to proposals to increase contributions to the main firefighter pension scheme from 11% to 14%, and to 17% for fire officers, and to increase the pension age to 60.
General secretary Matt Wrack said: "This pensions robbery is a crude smash and grab raid on firefighter pension rights to help pay for the budget deficit. It is nothing to do with long-term sustainability or affordability."