War of words

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THE war of words over public sector pensions shows no sign of abating as both sides battle for the high ground in a debate affecting millions of workers – and tens of millions of taxpayers. Last week’s strike action was not a “damp squib” as the Prime Minister claimed. Neither was it as effective as union leaders suggested.

Yesterday the Government announced a pension contribution freeze for nearly half of NHS staff. About 600,000 workers earning less than £26,500 will not have to pay more next year. Predictably, this drew an angry reaction from unions. To pay for this concession, middle and higher earners will be expected to pay higher contributions towards pensions. Two thirds of nurses, and all doctors and dentists, fall into this category.

The move, which only covers 2012-13, will inevitably impact on the wider issue of wholesale public sector pension reform.

Yet, given how the pensions debate is becoming so acrimonious as the private sector accuse the public sector of largesse and vice versa, constructive negotiations need to resume at the earliest opportunity.