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Public sector strikes

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29 November 2011
Public sector strikes This week I have received lots of emails from constituents who are planning to strike on Wednesday. These emails are from firefighters, social workers, teachers, nursery nurses and local government workers; ordinary public sector workers who, having worked in public service, believed that when they retired they would be financially secure.

Like the members of the NUT and ATL who lobbied me in Parliament a couple of weeks ago, they are now understandably concerned that they are being asked to pay more into their pensions, work longer but get less back. I understand their frustrations and you can read an example reply to those emails here.

The approach of the Government to “negotiating” with the unions has been shocking. Negotiations mean give and take, yet even before the talks began the Government decided to impose a 3% increase in employee contributions. The recent eleventh hour concessions are a step forward but it is clear that the Government still needs to work with the unions to reach a sustainable public sector pensions settlement.

Strikes must always be the last resort but I can understand why thousands of public sector workers currently feel they were left with no other option. 750,000 public sector workers earn less than £15,000 a year, most will eventually receive a low to modest pension, and the majority of those who will be hit hardest by the reforms are women.

These proposals are coming at the same time as a public sector pay freeze and rising food and fuel prices. The fact that so many individuals are striking for the first time, and some unions are calling for industrial action for the first time in their existence, speaks volumes for the opposition to these proposals.

Today I have written to Francis Maude, the Minister for the Cabinet Office who has responsibility for civil service pensions and pay, and I have signed EDM 2228 on Public Sector Pensions which you can read here. I will continue to press the Government to negotiate a fair and balanced settlement with trade unions and public sector workers.

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