Workers voting on pensions strike

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Thousands of public sector workers including top civil servants will today vote on strike action over the Government’s pensions policy as unions warned of a “meltdown” should the controversial plans go ahead.

Members of the FDA, which represents high ranking Whitehall staff, and Prospect, will be balloted from on whether to take industrial action in protest at proposals to increase their contributions by 3.2 per cent.

The result of the two ballots will be known in mid-November, by which time other unions representing over a million teachers, head teachers, NHS and local government workers, will have announced the outcome of strike votes.

The TUC is organising a day of action on November 30, which could see millions of workers stage the biggest day of industrial unrest seen in the UK for decades.

The FDA represents more than 19,000 senior managers, government policy advisers, diplomats, tax staff, economists, solicitors, prosecutors and other professionals working across government and the NHS.

Up to 25,000 teachers, lecturers and support staff will pile further pressure on Ministers by staging a mass lobby of MPs at Parliament on Wednesday over what they have called “ruthless” pension cuts in the education sector.

Seven teaching unions have joined forces for the action, will also see a petition containing more than 100,000 signatures handed over.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “No wonder our economic growth has shuddered to a halt. Many families include a public sector worker, and Government Ministers are telling them they must pay a lot more into their pension.

“Taking money out of family budgets now is economic suicide. The country needs people to be spending, and fuelling our recovery, not too frightened to go to the shops.”

The row will also be taken to the courts today as six unions take action in the High Court to challenge using the consumer price index (CPI) instead of the traditionally higher retail price index (RPI) for the annual increase in public sector pensions.

The move, which came into effect in April, was announced by Chancellor George Osborne in the June 2010 Budget, with unions arguing it was done without any consultation or negotiation, purely as a deficit reduction measure.

Unions claimed that because CPI is around 1.2 per cent lower on average than RPI, the loss to existing public sector pensioners will be around 15 per cent, with the change already affecting staff currently paying into career average schemes.

The unions’ case is that the move was not permitted under social security legislation, and that it reneged on assurances given by successive governments that RPI would apply.

Unions involved in the action are the Fire Brigades’ Union, teachers’ union NASUWT, Prison Officers Association, Public and Commercial Services union, Unison and Unite.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The switch from RPI to CPI is just another example of how this Government wants public servants, pensioners and people entitled to benefits to pay the heaviest price for the recession.

“For new entrants to the civil service it means an immediate cut in their pensions, ripping up an agreement we reached just a few years ago.

“As well as challenging this in court, the unions are mounting the widest, most coordinated industrial action we have seen in our lifetimes, to force the Government to think again and show how out of touch millionaire Ministers are with the lives and concerns of the rest of us.”