A national strike over pensions involving more than a million
local and central government workers has been averted. Unions
called off the proposed one-day strike on Wednesday 23 March at the
beginning of that week after the government withdrew its proposed
reforms to the local government pension scheme. In its place the
government has proposed a tripartite committee of government,
employers and unions to discuss reforming the scheme.
A meeting on Friday 18 March between local government unions and
the government produced a written commitment from John Prescott in
which the deputy prime minister withdrew proposals to raise the
retirement age in local government from 60 to 65. Prescott will
chair the committee and said nothing would “be ruled in or
“It is my clear intention to revoke at my earliest parliamentary
opportunity, the Local Government Pension Scheme (Amendment) (No.2)
Regulations 2004 with retrospective effect: no scheme members will
be disadvantaged. It is my intention also to begin consultation on
new regulations, which will ensure the continuing solvency of the
scheme,” Prescott said.
Alan Johnson, work and pensions secretary, has written to
Brendan Barber (head of the TUC) proposing talks involving
government ministers. “I am very clear that in those talks all
aspects of the government’s proposals will be open to discussion
and negotiation,” he added.
Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, which has 800,000
members in local government, said: “I am pleased that the
government has listened. Our aim throughout talks with the deputy
prime minister has been to have these regulations revoked and to
have real negotiations on how we can have a viable, sustainable
pension scheme that will benefit all.”
But Prentis did warn that the strike day would have been a
“massive show of solidarity” and thanked the hard work of his
members in building strike action.
“The commitment we have from the deputy prime minister would not
have been possible without the determined campaigning and hard work
of our members. Local government unions have presented a united
front and the support of the Public and Commercial Services union
and the First Division Association also contributed to the
successful outcome of the talks.”
The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), which covers
civil servants and would have affected benefit workers, also called
off their strike on Monday after receiving assurances from the head
of the civil service Sir Andrew Turnball.
The commitment to withdraw the proposed reforms in favour of
negotiations also includes guarantees for a fresh start in
negotiations on civil service pay coherence, job losses and sick
Mark Serwotka PCS general secretary said that the strike vote
had pushed the government into a “a hard won change of policy”.
He added: “the task is now to ensure the government deal with
our concerns through negotiation and that people have dignity in
their old age and certainty about their pension.”
Other local government unions Amicus, TGWU, and Ucatt and Unison
also called off their strike action.