Around 400,000 public sector workers including off-duty police officers, lecturers, prison officers, border control staff and health workers are taking part in a strike today over Government proposals for pension reforms.
The 24-hour industrial action is set to disrupt airports, job centres, colleges, courts, museums and other municipal buildings, fuelled by yesterday’s Queen’s Speech in which ministers said they would forge ahead with the controversial changes.
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude called the strike “futile” and said that pensions talks would not be reopened.
According to unions, the reforms will mean that employees end up contributing more and working for longer for a lower pension.
But the Government has said that the current pension system is unsustainable because people are living longer.
Conservative Party chairman Baroness Warsi said workers were being asked to “work a little bit longer and to pay a bit more but they will be guaranteed a pension which is index-linked and inflation proof”.
In the Queen’s Speech yesterday, it was announced that the state retirement age will increase in line with longevity.
Plans to raise the retirement age to 67 will be brought forward to between 2026 and 2028 and after that it will be linked to life expectancy.
This could mean that children born now may have to work until they are 80 years old.
Plans to scrap final salary pensions for public sector workers and replace them with a retirement income based on less generous career average earnings were also announced.
Last November there were two days of industrial action by more than 1.5 million public sector workers over the pension plans.
Meanwhile, thousands of off-duty police officers are also due to protest against funding cuts and proposed pay, pensions and work reforms in a march through central London today.
Policing Minister Nick Herbert told the BBC: “Police officers will continue to be rewarded for doing an exceptional job but they do earn more than other members of the emergency services and are able to earn overtime.”
But Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said: “Although the Government tries to divide people in the public and private sector, we simply say, wherever you work, why should you not have the right to a decent pension?”