Emergency talks between local authority unions and the government
were expected this week in a final attempt to avert a strike over
planned changes to council pensions.
The move follows significant majorities supporting a strike in
ballots by five unions representing 1.4 million council employees
As Community Care went to press, the unions said post-ballot talks
with deputy prime minister John Prescott and employers over the
planned changes were “progressive”, and that more talks would
The unions warned that failure to reach a deal would result in an
initial one-day strike in councils across the UK on 23 March on a
scale not seen since the General Strike in 1926.
The five unions – Unison, GMB, Amicus, T&G and Ucatt – are
angry at plans to raise the retirement and pension age for council
workers a year earlier than for other public sector workers.
The changes would stop the practice of council staff retiring early
on a full pension unless it is due to ill health or redundancy. The
minimum age at which any pension can be paid will rise from 50 to
55, except in the case of ill health.
The unions say local government pension scheme deficits are largely
the result of pension holidays taken by some councils in the early
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Our members who have
paid their pension contributions week in, week out are very angry
and are not prepared to accept changes by diktat.
“Unison wants real negotiations for the first time on a sustainable
good pension scheme which benefits all local government workers and
which councils and staff can afford.
“Let’s hope the Local Government Association and the employers see
sense and abandon these changes so that negotiations can take
Amicus national officer Gail Cartmail added: “Progress is being
made but passions are running high. If the strike on 23 March goes
ahead, public sector workers will make it a big day.”
The average local government pension is £3,800 a year.