Pensions Row: Unions Plan 'Day Of Action'

Unions are planning a major "day of action" on November 30 as the row with the Government over pension reforms intensifies.

TUB boss Brendan Barber warned that unless a settlement with ministers was reached it would be "the biggest trade union mobilisation for a generation".

Up to three million workers, ranging from firefighters and school dinner ladies, to social workers and driving test examiners, are set to take part in the action.

The walkout could include stoppages, meetings, rallies and joint events with community groups.

And it will herald months of industrial unrest in a major challenge to the Government.

The action will come a day after Chancellor George Osborne is due to publish his autumn statement on the forecast for the UK economy.

Mr Barber said "further consideration was being given to what other action might be appropriate beyond that day of action if a settlement is not secured".

But he said he was "absolutely committed" to resolving the matter through genuine negotiation and urged the Government to bring new proposals to the table.

Union leaders at the TUC Congress in London earlier announced they were to ballot their members over taking industrial action.

The strike ballots were described as "disappointing" and "irresponsible" by Prime Minister David Cameron's official spokesman.

Confirmation of the ballots came as figures showed that unemployment had increased at the highest rate for nearly two years.

Unison, Unite, the GMB and the Fire Brigades Union all gave notice of ballots in the worsening row over pensions and launched angry attacks against the Government.

Unison's general secretary, Dave Prentis , said 9,000 separate employer groups would be involved in the action, describing the ballot as "unprecedented" in scale.

He told the congress meeting that unions were involved in the "fight of our lives" over the Government's controversial reforms of pensions.

The reforms would mean that workers would pay an extra 3.2% in contributions.

Earlier, Sky's Jon Craig said the strikes, involving "millions of people", would impact schools and colleges, as well as refuse collection and other key services.

"Parents worried about childcare are facing schools closing in November - I think classroom chaos is what we can expect actually," Craig warned.

Civil servants, teachers and lecturers have already voted to strike.

Francis Maude , the Cabinet Office minister who is leading negotiations for the Government, said strikes would be greeted with little enthusiasm from workers.

"We don't want strikes and the public will be very fed up if there are widespread strikes which close schools and affect health services and transport," said Mr Maude.

"If they were to do this during a time when the global economy is flatlining, that would be a self-inflicted wound for Britain.

"People who are struggling to pay their bills and paying more towards public sector pensions in many cases than they are paying towards their own pensions will be mightily fed up if there is unnecessary strike action," he said.

Brian Coleman, chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, said: "The FBU's decision to ballot for industrial action at this time is an affront to hard-working taxpayers across the country.

"Negotiations on changes to firefighter pensions are still going on and yet the FBU is already resorting to its usual bully-boy tactics."

Labour leader Ed Miliband was booed on Tuesday when he told the TUC Congress that strikes over public sector pensions were a mistake.

He said he understood why millions of workers were angry, adding: "But while negotiations were going on, I do believe it was a mistake for strikes to happen. I continue to believe that.

"What we need now is meaningful negotiation to prevent further confrontation over this autumn.

"Strikes are always the consequence of failure. Failure on all sides. Failure we cannot afford as a nation. Instead your real role is as partners in the new economy."

Employment Minister Chris Grayling told Sky News: "I very much regret what the unions are saying at the moment.

"The truth is that there is a huge gulf between the pensions available today in the public sector and those available in the private sector.

"It is simply not realistic to believe that there can be no change, particularly at a time when people are living longer and so the cost of pensions is rising and rising."

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