Public sector workers ‘will vote for strikes’

Winchester jail put in special measures

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PUBLIC sector employees in the Portsmouth area will vote to strike on November 30, says the Unison union.

Jon Woods, Portsmouth city branch chairman of the public sector union, said there was concern over the future of public sector pensions in the region.

He revealed that local government employees in the region could expect an average pension of £4,000 a year –a figure unions believe is too low.

For women, the average yearly pension is just £2,900.

He said: ‘We feel extremely concerned about pensions. It is clear that they are not gold-plated, as they are portrayed, or anything like that.’

Ministers are seeking increases in pension contributions from next April, while millions of workers continue to face a pay freeze.

The coalition government argues that rises in payments are fair and will make schemes sustainable despite an ageing population.

Yesterday Unison, Unite, the GMB and the Fire Brigades’ Union retaliated and announced they would be asking their members whether to hold national strikes over the issue of public sector pensions.

They believe the government is trying to take funds out of the pensions it pays in order to try to plug the hole in its budget.

If the sector does strike later this year, dockyard workers, teachers, hospital staff, firefighters, council employees, and customs officials will be affected.

And Mr Woods said the answer from the Portsmouth area was likely to be ‘yes’.

He added: ‘We carried out a straw poll earlier this year, and the overwhelming thing that came back was that our members would vote to strike, and they’d like to see all the unions working together.

‘That’s very significant.’

Yesterday the PCS union, which covers civil service employees such as UK border agency staff working at Portsmouth International Port, Ministry of Defence Staff, court staff and Jobcentres, also said it would ballot its members.