Thousands strike in UK over pensions

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

As many as 1.5 million government workers, members of 11 unions, went on strike on Tuesday in protest of a government decision to reduce their retirement benefits, a change which would take effect in October.

The strike closed thousands of schools, libraries and leisure centres, disrupted commuters, and reduced some facilities to emergency only staffing.

UNISON claimed that more than a million workers had joined the strike, with General Secretary Dave Prentis saying "this overwhelming show of strength from Lands End to John O'Groats has obviously taken the Local Government Association and some local councils by surprise".

The benefits change, would effect the "85 year rule," of the Local Government Pension scheme, which allows government employees to retire at 60 as long as the sum of their age and their years of employment sum to 85 or greater. According to union representatives, the new retirement plan is targeted at lower paid employees, leaving higher paid employees to enjoy the same benefits as before.

Ahead of the strike, the Local Government Association claimed that the changes proposed by unions "would add at least 2% a year to every council taxpayer's bill".

The participating unions point out this is likely to be the largest strike in Britain since 1926.

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