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U.K.’s Unison Union Votes to Strike Nov. 30 Over Pension Curbs

Members of Unison, the U.K.’s biggest public-sector union, voted to join other unions in a strike on Nov. 30 over government curbs to state workers’ pensions.

Nurses, paramedics, social workers and school support staff were among 245,358 people who voted to take action, while 70,253 voted against in a ballot of 1.1 million members, the London-based union said in an e-mailed statement today. As it was a postal ballot, almost all voted before the government announced details of concessions in its pension-overhaul plan yesterday.

“The decisive ‘yes’ vote in the ballot reflects the deep concern that our members have over government ministers’ proposals for their pensions,” Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis said in the statement. He said the government’s revised proposals were “a marked improvement,” though ministers still have to spell out details.

Fourteen unions representing teachers, health workers and civil servants are planning one-day strikes on Nov. 30 to protest the plans to make government employees retire later and contribute more to their pensions. Ministers say the overhaul, part of Prime Minister David Cameron’s 80 billion-pound ($128 billion) program of spending cuts, is fair as the more than 5 million workers who contribute to public-sector pensions get benefits no longer available in the private sector.

Unison will continue negotiating with the government over the details of yesterday’s concessions, Prentis said. The offer,

which was described as “generous” by Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, included protecting existing pension rights for people 10 years from retirement, higher limits for government contributions and improved benefit-accrual rates.

“I hope that on the basis of this offer the unions will devote their energy to reaching agreement rather than damaging strike action,” Alexander told the House of Commons yesterday. “Despite some of the public comment, significant progress has been made.”

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