MINISTERS renewed their efforts to avert nationwide strike action yesterday after Britain’s biggest public sector union, Unison, said its members had voted in favour of walkouts on 30 November.
Unison, which represents 1.1m workers, said the result showed “overwhelming” support for a 24-hour walkout, with 77 per cent of participants voting in favour of a strike – but on a turnout of just 29 per cent.
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude (pictured), who is leading the negotiations on pensions with the Treasury, said the result did not represent the views of most workers.
“We listened to the concerns of public sector workers about their pensions and yesterday responded with a new generous settlement which is beyond the dreams of most private [sector] employees,” he added.
Government officials presented unions with a sweetened pensions deal on Wednesday, which could give public sector workers the option to save more quickly and protect those less than 10 years away from retirement from any changes made.
The pension reforms would be the last such changes for 25 years, under the latest offer on the table.
Unions largely welcomed the offer of a new package, but had said it came too late to prevent co-ordinated strikes at the end of the month.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said his union supported the stoppage “but will be negotiating right up to then and beyond to get a fair deal for our members”.
A spokeswoman for Prime Minister David Cameron called the ballot result “disappointing, unnecessary and potentially damaging” to public services.
The government is trying to overhaul costly public sector pensions under its budget deficit reduction plan.
Other unions are expected to unveil their own ballot results in the coming weeks, ahead of what could be Britain’s biggest walkout in decades.