Thursday of this week will bring a fresh bout of industrial action from public sector workers who feel they are not being heard when it comes to negotiations with the government on crucial pension reforms.
Union leaders are saying that as many as 400,000 public sector workers – including employees from the Ministry of Defence, immigration office, Royal Fleet Auxiliary, and off-duty police force – could be coming together to strike and protest in other ways this Thursday.
The latest walkout is part of a string of sustained industrial action which started last November. Despite the government’s eagerness for the issue to seem ‘squashed’ and decided, the new 400,000-man strike is over the same issues that were expected to have been settled by the start of 2012.
Most public sector unions oppose the reforms, which are effectively cuts to public sector workers’ pensions because the system is too costly and placing high liability burdens upon taxpayers. The workers affected have already been under wage freezes and will do so for another two years, unions say, and are expected to pay more for their pensions.
Not only will public sector workers pay more in pension contributions, but in many cases they will get smaller pensions.
Another issue of contention is the move to make public sector workers retire in line with the state pension age, which is set to increase multiple times in the next few decades.
While we live in a free society, some workers are forbidden by law to strike because doing so would leave the general public vulnerable. Members of the armed forces, police offers, and prison officers are all prohibited from striking.
However, off-duty police offers will be making a token sign of protest and solidarity with other public sector workers who are making their voices heard against the government’s pension reforms. It’s said that police officers are particularly angry with the hard-hitting pension cuts because they just suffered 20% budget cuts. The government’s controversial pension reforms are the biggest proposed change to police pay or working conditions in over 3 decades.
There are further warnings that strikes and other forms of industrial action could take place in June and throughout the summer. The government is keen to settle the dispute, particularly because of this summer’s London Olympics, but keep from losing face.
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