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China Daily Website

British govt workers reject pensions offer

Updated: 2012-01-12 14:29
( Xinhua)

LONDON - Workers in the Ministry of Defense (MOD) and other British government departments on Wednesday unanimously rejected the government's public sector pension proposals.

The workers are all members of Unite, one of the largest trade unions in Britain.

Unite rejected the government's pension reform plans, which could see workers paying more into their pensions, working longer until they retire, and getting less after retirement because the final salary scheme would be changed to a career-average one.

"It is clear from the decisions of the three executive committees representing our public sector members that the current proposals are unfair," the union's General Secretary Len McCluskey said.

"The message to ministers is that the wide-scale protests on November 30 highlighted the serious concerns that public sector employees have about being forced to pay more, work longer and receive less when they retire," McCluskey said.

He said his union "again calls on ministers to enter into real, genuine and meaningful negotiations to reach a fair and equitable solution."

The move by Unite members came only a day before unions meet to discuss further actions in their industrial dispute with the coalition government over pension changes, which the government wants to introduce because of pressure on its budgets.

Prime Minister David Cameron's coalition government has set itself the main economic task of reducing the near-record level of government spending debt, estimated at 127 billion pounds (about $194.7 billion) by the end of last year.

To do this, Finance Minister, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, has cut government departmental budgets by up to 30 percent in some cases over a five-year period. Job losses have already reached at least 200,000 and could be up to 710,000 by the end of the program.

Up to 2 million public sector workers including senior government officials, academics, teachers, firefighters, ambulance workers, nurses and hospital workers, staged a one-day strike on November 30. It was the largest strike in 80 years and the most significant industrial unrest in a generation.

The coalition of 29 unions which backed that strike seems to have fractured as some unions, like Britain's largest union Unison, have moved towards reaching an agreement with the government.

However, other unions, led by the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), remain defiant and are pressing for further industrial action including strikes.

McCluskey told Xinhua that if the government doesn't make a satisfactory offer, then industrial action could continue "into the Olympics," which will be held in London in July and August this year.