UK public sector workers strike over pension rights

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006 Local Government workers in the UK withdrew their labour yesterday as part of a dispute over pension entitlements. The members of 11 different trades unions were involved in the 24hr strike. As the day began they declared that support for the strike was solid. Although the strikers work for local councils, their pay and conditions are agreed nationally. The Local Government Association which represents the local councils in England and Wales declared predictions that 1.5 million people would stay away from work as "wildly optimistic".

The Unions' complaint is that local government workers are being treated unfavourably compared to other public sector employees. They say that agreements on pensions that have been reached with civil servants, teachers and health workers will allow those staff to continue to retire at 60 while local government staff will be forced to work until they are 65. Civil servants work for national government, teachers work for local councils but have their own pension arrangements and most health workers are employed by the state-controlled National Health Service.

The Local Government Association claims that if council workers continue to be able to retire at 60, it will increase the levels of Council Tax (a tax on people living in properties which funds a proportion of local government expenditure) by 2%.

The striking workers provide a wide range of services from assisting teachers in the class room, through inspecting kitchens for hygiene to provising care to the vulnerable in society. In some places council workers collect tolls for road tunnels or manage ferries. Mainstream media have reported on the strike all day with heavy coverage of disruption to commuters where transport has been affected. The unions have emphasised the large number of their members who are women working in low paid jobs.

The Government which regulates the scheme claimed that the early retirement provisions (called the rule of 85) were age-discriminatory and had to be removed.

The strike ended at midnight. The Unions have not declared any further strike days.

The Unions involved were AEP, AMICUS, CYWU, GMB, NAPO, NIPSA, NUJ, NUT, TGWU, UCATT and UNISON.

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