Union Strike Action Threatens U.K. Pension Offer, Maude Says

Widespread strike action planned for Nov. 30 could damage the British economy and put a government pension offer at risk, U.K. Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said.

Maude, currently in negotiations with unions representing government employees over how to reduce their pensions, said he disagreed with their decision to strike during the talks and urged members to take minimal action.

“The offer we’ve put on the table is conditional on the unions agreeing overall the outcome of the new scheme,” Maude told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. “We have the power to withdraw it and impose something.”

Fourteen unions representing teachers, health workers and civil servants are planning strikes to protest plans to make government employees retire later and contribute more to their pensions. Ministers say the move -- 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.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers, said her members had no alternative to strike action.

“At the 11th hour the government’s put on the table some amendments to their proposals, which were welcome, but actually they need to be examined very carefully,” she told the Marr program. “At the moment, we’re involved in frantic activity to try to see what those proposals will actually mean.”

Maude stopped short of saying the offer would come off the table if the Nov. 30 strike was large. “It’s certainly not take it or leave it,” he said. “This is as good as it gets, but there’s still a great deal to discuss.”

He said instead he wanted to agree on “the basics” by the end of the year.

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