Lansley shift fails to resolve pensions dispute

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The public sector pensions dispute remained deadlocked last night in spite of a move by the Government to improve arrangements for more than half a million NHS workers.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said that under “improved” proposals, 530,000 staff would not need to pay any more into their pensions next year because the threshold for freezing pension contributions would be raised from £15,000 to £26,557 for 2012/13.

The change would protect lower-paid staff in the health service, with increased contributions distributed among higher earners, said the Government.

Unions accused Ministers of trying to “mislead” workers and criticised the timing of the announcement before fresh negotiations which were held yesterday.

Unison’s head of health Christina McAnea said: “The proposed increase in pension contributions will still hit more than half of all NHS staff who are already struggling to cope with the pay freeze and rising inflation.”

Unite said thousands of middle-income NHS workers would be subject to a “smash and grab” raid by the Treasury under the latest proposals, which the GMB said were not enough to settle the pensions row.

The announcement followed last week’s strike by up to two million public sector workers, which closed schools, courts and jobcentres and disrupted hospitals and driving tests.

Rehana Azam, national officer of the GMB union, said: the move was not enough to settle the pensions dispute.

Talks on the local government pension scheme are due to be held next week, while the Public and Commercial Services union claimed that many areas had been “ruled out” of discussions covering civil servants.

Comment: Page 14.