Falkirk workers set to strike in pension protest

Call to the picket line
Call to the picket line

Thousands of public sector workers across Falkirk are expected to back a strike call on November 30.

The action is being taken in protest at Government plans to hike their pension contributions and make them work longer before they can retire.

Council buildings including schools, libraries and One Stop shops face total closure.

It is also feared the elderly will be forced to go without the support of home helps and refuse collections will be cancelled for hundreds of households.

Work at benefits offices and job centres and the Child Support Agency staffed by members of the PCS civil service union is likely to be disrupted, while civilian staff working at police and fire stations are also expected not to turn up for what is being billed as the biggest coordinated national day of industrial action in modern times goes ahead.

Over 2000 members of the Falkirk Council branch of Unison have already been balloted.

Branch secretary Gray Allan warned: “The country is facing a complete shut down of the public sector and the Government the biggest wake-up call it has had in a generation.

“None of us will take the decision to go on strike lightly, but time is running out. Our pensions are important to us and so are the services we provide. But we don’t have a choice. The average pension in local government is just over £4000 a year, falling to £2000 or only £54 a week for women. If we don’t act now then the value of our pensions will be cut away and we’ll also have to work longer before we can claim them.

“There is a pensions crisis in this country and we’re taking action to defend cuts and to stop the race to the bottom that will mean poverty in retirement for everyone.”

The PCS claims its members have been responding “in droves” to its call for an ‘All Out St Andrew’s Day’ and a ‘No’ vote to pension contribution increases, job cuts and two-year pay freeze. It says public sector workers should not be expected to pay for a crisis brought on by reckless bankers.

The Government plans to increase contributions by up to 50 per cent and raise the retirment age.

Unison members are already paying six per cent of their pay into the scheme. That will rise to nine per cent for those earning £15,000 or more a year and a tax on low paid workers already living with a two-year pay freeze, high inflation and heavy job losses.

Dave Prentis, Unison general secretary, said: “The lack of provision in the private sector is the real pensions crisis. Public sector workers don’t retire on a fortune. Cutting pension entitlement is a false economy. I want to reach a negotiated settlement, but so far the Government has not been listening. “Unless it takes these negotiations seriously it will face the biggest coordinated industrial action of modern times. Unison members won’t take that decision lightly, but they can only be pushed so far.”