Unions meet ministers over cuts
Published 25/05/2011 | 00:32
Union leaders will meet Government ministers for talks over public sector pensions as more than 250,000 civil servants start voting on whether to go on strike in protest at spending cuts.
Officials from unions representing workers across the public sector will hold talks at the Cabinet Office amid signs of growing industrial unrest over plans to axe jobs, freeze pay and reduce pensions.
Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union will be balloted on whether to launch a campaign of strikes and other forms of industrial action, raising the prospect of co-ordinated walkouts with teachers, lecturers and other workers on June 30.
Union officials said talks with the Government are reaching a crucial stage, with an announcement on public sector pensions expected next month.
PCS leader Mark Serwotka has warned that more than 750,000 workers could join a 24-hour walkout on June 30 in protest against Government cuts.
The annual conference of the Communication Workers Union has unanimously backed calls for the TUC to co-ordinate a nationwide walkout against "attacks" on pay, pensions and services. Delegates at the Bournemouth conference also agreed to moves aimed at co-ordinating campaigns and strikes with other unions.
Leaders of the University and College Union have warned of strikes, while both the National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, which is seen as the most moderate teaching union, began balloting members for strikes last week. If approved, action is likely to affect millions of children at virtually every school in England and Wales.
The PCS said hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs are threatened, pay is being frozen or set below inflation, and the Government has made clear it will implement Lord Hutton's proposals on public sector pensions, meaning civil and public servants will pay more and work longer for a lower pension.
Mr Serwotka said: "Our members know that everything they have ever worked for is now under threat, and they are voting to say there is an alternative worth fighting for. The Government is seeking to blame and punish public sector workers for an economic crisis that ministers and their advisers know was caused by greed and recklessness in the financial sector.
"This ballot is about showing that, if we invested in our economy and tackled the real scroungers who dodge paying billions of pounds in taxes, we would not need to cut a single penny from public spending."