British unions stick by national strike plan

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Britain's public sector workers will stage a national strike on November 30 in protest over major pension reforms, union leaders said Wednesday, despite a government offer aimed at averting action.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) said its members were "firmly committed to continuing their preparations for the planned day of action on November 30" after rejecting proposed changes to the coalition's pension reforms.

TUC head Brendan Barber said "major areas of concern" remained after Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander and Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude laid out several changes.

The TUC's Public Services Liaison Group (PSLG) said in a statement that not enough had been done to avert the planned walkout.

"Danny Alexander and Francis Maude outlined a number of new proposals to the TUC negotiating team ... They also indicated a long-term commitment to any agreed reforms not being reopened within the next 25 years.

"The PSLG welcomed this movement in the government's position which has come as a direct result of the strength of feeling and determination shown by public sector workers and the groundswell of support for the TUC's day of action at the end of this month."

However it added that "unless and until further real progress is made and acceptable offers are made within those negotiations, unions remain firmly committed to continuing their preparations for the planned day of action on November 30."

Unions oppose moves to raise the public sector retirement age by up to six years to 66, increase employee contributions by 50 percent in some cases, and replace final salary pensions with those based on average career earnings.

Trade unions have dubbed the November strike as the biggest mobilisation of state workers for a generation.

Hundreds of thousands of public sector workers held a first day of action on June 30, forcing the closure of a third of schools in England while tax offices, museums and job centres were brought to a standstill.

© 2011 AFP

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