UK – 30 June: hundreds of thousands of public sector workers take action on pensions

(29 June 2011) EPSU sends solidarity greetings to civil servants and other public sector workers

On 30 June hundreds of thousands of civil servants and teachers in the UK will be taking part in a national strike over changes to their pension arrangements. EPSU affiliate PCS, the largest civil service union, is taking the action because of the government’s refusal to undertake proper negotiations over the core elements of the pension changes.

The union says that the changes that the government wants to impose will involve higher pension contributions, a later retirement age and lower benefits at retirement. It gives the example of one worker, a woman aged 30 with 11 years of service and on a salary of €35000. If the changes are implemented then she will see her contributions rise by nearly €90 a month and if wants to retire at 60 it will cost her €134000 in terms of lost pension entitlement.

Unions are concerned not only about the reduction in benefits but the increase cost of contributions which could lead to many workers leaving schemes or new workers not joining.

EPSU general secretary Carola Fischbach-Pyttel said: “The UK government is the latest to try to impose pension reforms. We saw this last year in France and the government in Denmark is also pushing ahead with changes. Our affiliates have challenged the arguments about pension cutbacks but above all they want the right to negotiate and we fully support the action of the PCS and the other unions in the UK who are determined to resist unilateral action by their employers.

EPSU also sends its support to non-affiliated organisations who are taking action on the 30 June. Apart from the ATL and NUT teaching unions, members of the POA prison workers’ union will be involved in protest meetings at their workplaces and will start a workplace ballot on industrial action over pension reforms.

Other EPSU affiliates in the UK may face major changes to their pension schemes and so there is the possibility of further and larger protests and strike action across the public sector.

The government has also indicated it wants to cut other public sector schemes and workers in local government, health and the fire service face the prospect of increased contributions and reduced benefits. Talks on these schemes should continue but EPSU affiliates in these sectors have warned of the serious implications if the government tries to impose the changes without negotiation.

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