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Pension talks may ignite a 'summer of industrial action'

  • 8 Comments

The government is facing the threat of a summer of industrial strife by millions of public sector workers after unions warned that radical changes to public sector pensions could “light the blue touch paper” for strikes.

The government is facing the threat of a summer of industrial strife by millions of public sector workers after unions warned that radical changes to public sector pensions could “light the blue touch paper” for strikes.

Teachers could be the first group to stage walkouts, leaving England’s schools facing mass disruption, although NHS staff, council workers, civil servants and other public sector employees could take coordinated action.

A crunch meeting will be held next week between union leaders and the government to try to head off the threat of widespread industrial unrest amid warnings that strikes were “inevitable” if ministers implemented recommendations in a report by Labour peer Lord Hutton.

He recommended that public sector workers should be stripped of their final salary pensions and instead have schemes linked to average earnings, while paying more and working longer.

He also called for the normal age at which most public sector staff can start drawing their pension to be increased to be the same as the state pension age, while members of the armed forces, police and firefighters should not be able to retire before 60.

The report was savaged by unions, saying it was a “recipe for disaster”, although they accused the government of planning a “Trojan horse raid” on the pensions of hard working public sector workers.

Lord Hutton argued that career average pensions would benefit lower paid workers and said his aim was to make the system fairer and more sustainable.

Around 12 million public sector employees depended on pensions in retirement, but costs were increasing as people lived longer, he said.

Royal College of Nursing general secretary Dr Peter Carter said: “There’s no doubt that these proposed changes are another hammer blow to the morale of dedicated nurses.”

Downing Street said “careful consideration” would be given to Lord Hutton’s recommendations and the Government would publish its response in due course.

“We will be engaging with public sector unions and others in taking forward our reforms in the future,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

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  • 8 Comments

Readers' comments (8)

  • Has anyone considered how practical (or safe) it will be to have 65 year old men & women up ladders fighting fires or entering burning buildings, or chasing criminals down the street. And we need not think that after a certain age they will be at desk jobs, because there wont be enough staff on the ground to spare them.

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  • some people still ski and climb four thousanders in the alps well into their 80s and have far more brains that all the Xs and Ys put together so stop all this patronising and discrimination and social stigmatisation and stereotyping immediately!

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  • and give me a 60 year old nurse, doctor or surgeon anytime at least they have knowledge, experience, wisdom, expertise, good management and organisational skills, understand discipline, and know how to care in every sense of the word.

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  • Sarah Stanley | 12-Mar-2011 2:32 pm

    so what useful work will you be doing for the community when you reach that age, if you do?!

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  • I totally agree with Sarah: if individuals are fit enough at age 60, 65 or 70 to stay in their job then I applaud them and think they should be encouraged, but there are many of us who have been nursing for a number of years who have a knackered back, neck or knees. I know we don’t tolerate manual handling any longer, however its not that many years ago that we were being encouraged to use techniques like the Australian lift etc and I’ve worked with nurses who have barely managed to work until they were 55 let alone 65.

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  • you cannot generalise about age and peoples' health. it is entirely individual and
    maybe for that reason it is desirable to choose retirement age according to general fitness, health and personal circumstances and their wellbeing, and also dependent on the job they do. I say this for the benefit of individuals but have no idea what effects this might have on the economy. it is probably very hard to predict as the labour market and economy is constantly and rapidly changing i.e. there is little comparison with the situation on the labour market and the economy 10 or 20 years ago so it is very hard to determine what future financial needs will be but it is very clear that some sort of plans and provision need to be made.

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  • If, or should I say when, the retirement and pensionable age increases, staff's abilities and needs should be assessed and perhaps consider redeployment to utilise staff efficiently. Believe me, you know when you have had enough (ward-wise). I am lucky to be mortgage free in 6 months time, but see so many of my colleagues, many only in their 50s struggling, as they have no option but to carry on running themselves into the ground. Yes, there are some that are healthy enough to carry on to 65 and beyond, but not many are full time in strenuous jobs. I am not ageist, because I am one of them, been there, done it, got the t-shirt!

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  • I am 46 years old but after 30 years in nursing, I have osteoarthritis in my neck, shoulders, back and knees. I am sure that I will certainly struggle if I am forced to work until I am 60 or 65.

    I have had continuous NHS service as I started my nurse training aged 16 which has taken it's toll on me mentally and physically. one of the perks of working in the NHS was the possibilty of retiring at 55, now that will be taken away also.

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