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Talks start to avert November strikes

GMB will attend talks tomorrow with council leaders on the dispute about the future of Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) which covers two million workers in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. These are the first talks since unions announced plans to ballot members for strike action if Government press ahead with changes to public sector pension schemes. If the ballots are positive the first day of strike action has been fixed for Wednesday 30th November.

Those covered by the scheme include staff working directly for councils and for contractors of outsourced services, school staff, many further and higher education staff, social services, environment agency, housing associations and regional government staff.

The Government want to increase pension contributions by 50%, raise the retirement age and lower the value of the pensions paid.

Brian Strutton GMB National Secretary for Public Services said

These are the first talks with the local government employers since GMB announced a ballot process that signals the start of a long, hard and dirty dispute brought about by government’s intransigent approach to negotiations. The talks will be followed by separate talks with Government on Thursday.

The ballot for industrial action will include care workers, social workers, hospital porters, refuse workers, healthcare assistants, PCSOs, teaching assistants, paramedics, 999 control room staff, gravediggers and thousands of other frontline public sector workers. These are not workers that want to strike but they are angry and frustrated by the continued vilification of their jobs and the contempt shown by Ministers for their commitment and their futures.

Already more than one in four Local Government workers are priced out of the LGPS yet government and council leaders are seeking to reduce benefits and increase member contributions to ensure quality pension saving becomes the exclusive preserve of the few. There is still time for a negotiated solution but we cannot delay the ballot process any longer.

Between them the LGPS and NHS schemes already take in £6billion a year more from contributions and investment income than is paid out in pensions. In the case of the LGPS there is income from the £165billion of assets. Report after report has shown that the costs of public sector pensions are falling and the reforms introduced less than five years ago are saving employers billions. Reforms to the LGPS are already saving councils more than £2 billion yet Eric Pickles wants to raise a further £900m from the two million members paying into the fund despite knowing that doing this will jeopardize the future of the scheme. It is a sign of the government’s failure that Pickles will negotiate with council leaders about imposing cuts to the pension scheme but refuses to talk to workers whose retirement is under threat.”

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