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Discussions on pension reforms end

Discussions on planned reforms of health, education and civil service pensions have ended and final proposals have been published, the Government announced.

Talks have continued since the start of the year in a bid to break the deadlocked row over the Government's controversial reforms, which sparked a strike by more than one and a half million public sector workers last year. Fresh industrial action is being threatened by some union leaders, possibly for later this month.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said there had been "constructive discussion" with unions on the final details of so-called heads of agreement set out at the end of last year.

"These agreements mean that public servants who have dedicated their lives to serving the public will rightly continue to receive pensions that are among the very best available, while delivering the Government's key objectives in full. This is a fair deal for public service workers and an affordable deal for the taxpayer."

The Government said the proposed final agreements remained in line with the approach set out in a previous report by former Labour minister Lord Hutton and will mean that public service pensions "remain among the very best available".

Brian Strutton, national officer of the GMB union, said: "GMB members in the NHS and civil service will now have the chance to cast their verdict on the Government's final proposals.

"Although we have done our best to improve these during the negotiations, there remain some very difficult issues that our members will need to weigh up. In addition there are some serious matters outstanding, including future contributions and how costs will be managed. All in all, with the background of public sector pay restraint, it's going to be a difficult consultation period."

The National Union of Teachers reacted angrily to the announcement, saying it had not signed up to the proposals.

General secretary Christine Blower said: "Asking teachers to pay 50% more for their pension while their pay is frozen could lead to the collapse of the scheme as many teachers will not be able to afford to stay in it, leaving taxpayers to bear the cost of state benefits. Making teachers work to 68 for a full pension is in nobody's interest, least of all pupils.

"We are still willing to negotiate an agreement but we cannot accept our members being asked to pay so much more and work so much longer for their pensions and receive so much less in retirement."

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