1.5 million may strike over pensions

Workers in nine different unions are to be balloted for strike action over Whitehall plans to alter the local government pensions scheme.

Submitted by Steven. on January 24, 2006

Unison, AMICUS, the Transport and General Workers Union, GMB, FBU and the NUT are amongst the unions involved, in what has been described as potentially the largest walk-out since the general strike of 1926. Talks have been going on for a year around the issue.

Public sector union PCS recently stopped short of strike action over similar pension changes for civil servants - after a government compromise left the scheme for existing workers unchanged, whilst maintaining the changes for new employees. A million public sector workers were set to strike in March over plans to raise the pension age to 65, but that strike was also called off.

The local government pension scheme currently includes the the "85 rule": if the sum total of your age and length of service adds up to 85 you can retire at 60, or earlier at employers' discretion. It's this that employers are attempting to remove in order to cut pensions costs.

Pensions for local government workers are often worse than those for other public sector workers. Amicus general secretary Derek Simpson said:

"Local government workers already have a worse scheme than other public sector workers and suffer extremely low pay, earning as little as £12,000 a year in stressful and physically demanding jobs at the front line of our public services. All we are asking is for their equal treatment with other public sector groups who have had their existing pension benefits protected by the Government."

History of the British General Strike, 1926