Public sector reform ‘steamrollered’

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FINAL plans for controversial reforms of health, education and civil service pensions have been published, sparking accusations the Government is “steamrollering” through the changes.

Discussions have continued since the start of the year in a bid to break the deadlocked row which sparked a strike by more than one-and-a-half million public sector workers last year and could lead to fresh industrial action later this month.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said there had been “constructive discussion” with unions on the final details of so-called heads of agreement set out at the end of last year.

“This is a fair deal for public service workers and an affordable deal for the taxpayer,” he added.

A Treasury statement said: “The agreements continue to deliver the Government’s key objectives on linking normal pensions age to state pension age and moving to schemes based on career-average salary, while protecting those closest to retirement.

“While most workers will be asked to retire later and pay more towards their pension, at the same time, most low and middle earners working a full career will receive pension benefits at least as good, if not better, than they get now.

“Those less than 10 years from their normal pension age on 1 April 2012 will continue to be protected from these changes.”

The Treasury said cost ceilings set last November remained unchanged, with no additional money made available.

Unite accused the Government of “steamrollering” through its final offer on public sector pensions, having “avoided” any meaningful negotiations.

The National Union of Teachers also reacted angrily, and Public and Commercial Services union general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Ministers’ obstinacy means we have this ludicrous charade of what is now our fourth final offer.”