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Miliband calls for pension talks

It is the Government's responsibility to avoid a mass walkout by public sector workers angry over changes to their pensions, Labour leader Ed Miliband has said.

Mr Miliband said ministers were wrong to have "slapped a 3% tax rise" on those in the public sector and must engage in "serious negotiations" to prevent industrial action on November 30.

He also revealed that his elder brother David, whom he defeated in last year's Labour leadership contest, had advised him to "be your own person" and "say what you think" in his keynote speech to the party conference in Liverpool.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, won warm applause from delegates this week when he said that millions of workers - and the union - expected to be backed by Labour "and its leadership".

Mr Miliband said: "The most important thing is that we have proper negotiations and the Government engages seriously in the negotiations. At the moment what the Government has done is slapped a 3% tax rise on public sector workers without properly negotiating, without it being recommended by an independent report.

"I say the Government should not be doing that, it should be engaging in proper, serious negotiations with the trade unions. It's their responsibility to stop the strike, which is after all scheduled for two months' time if a ballot goes through, it's their responsibility to stop it happening."

During a question and answer session at the conference, Mr Miliband was urged to bring his brother back from "political Siberia" and faced accusations that family feuding was holding the party back. Mr Miliband said he had spoken to his brother, who missed Tuesday's speech because he was in the US, and he had offered him advice.

He said: "I talked to him before the speech, he's currently abroad, and he gave me good advice. The advice was 'be your own person, say what you think' and that's what I did and that's what I'm going to keep doing.

"What I've set out is a vision for how we can change this country and where I stand - against the closed circles of Britain that hold people back. We've seen that today, the top universities not doing enough to open up to state school pupils, that's wrong, I think it's got to change.

"How are we going to take on the vested interests at the top of our society, whether it's the energy companies or the banks, real changes that can help the people of Britain?"


From Belfast Telegraph