A senior union leader has angrily attacked the government over its controversial public sector pension reforms, warning that talks aimed at averting strikes were now in “jeopardy”.
Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, rounded on ministers, accusing them of “naive tactics” and a lack of negotiating skills.
His outburst followed an expected announcement from the government that public sector workers will have to pay up to £3,000 a year more to keep up their pension schemes.
Ministers will today set out precise details of the additional contributions facing millions of doctors, nurses, teachers and civil servants.
Mr Prentis said ministers should abandon the “playground games”, adding: “We entered into the scheme specific talks on public sector pensions in good faith and we genuinely believe we are making progress, albeit slowly.
“But these talks are being put in jeopardy by the crude and naive tactics of government ministers who don’t seem to understand the word negotiate.
“The government must take its responsibilities seriously, and stop treating these talks like some kind of playground game.
“Let’s not forget that these talks are about real people, hard-working individuals who signed up to, and pay into, a pension scheme that is supposed to cushion them against poverty in old age. Extra contributions won’t go back into the pension schemes, but straight to the Treasury to pay off the country’s deficit - effectively a tax on public sector workers to pay for the bankers’ mess. That is totally unjust.
“It is totally unhelpful to the progress of these talks to release their bargaining position as though it is set in stone. If it is set in stone, then there is no point in having a single further meeting.”
Unison said any changes to public sector pensions should be based on evidence and not “political ideology”, pointing out that the average pension in local government was £4,000, and just £2,800 for women.
In the NHS, average pensions were £7,500, and £3,000 for women, with members of both schemes paying between 5.5% and 7.5% of their salaries to save for their retirement, said Unison, pointing out that if they did not save, they would end up on means-tested benefits at a cost to taxpayers.