The soul-searching ahead of strike vote

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COUNCIL workers will have had to do some deep soul-searching before voting on whether or not to go out on strike, their union representative said ahead of a ballot result today.

Unison members at South Holland District Council and Lincolnshire County Council have been voting on industrial action on November 30 over Government plans to change their pension scheme.

Under the plans, staff would have had to work longer, pay more and receive less, although a Government announcement yesterday did aim to soften the blow.

But South Holland council leader Gary Porter said voting for action would be “foolhardy” as staff could not expect to receive much public sympathy for their cause.

Lynda Pearson, secretary of Unison’s South Holland branch, said: “We have been encouraging members to use their ballot and not to waste this opportunity to have their say.

“Branch officers have spoken personally to many members about the ballot and what it means for them and for all those working in the public sector.

“Although this ballot is specific to the changes to the local Government Pension Scheme if these changes are pushed through it could herald the start of more attacks on those that work in the public sector.

“None of the members take lightly the decision to take industrial action and many would have had to search deep in their consciousness to make the right decision.”

Mrs Pearson said she and Unison members would be “waiting with bated breath” to see the results of the ballot due late today.

But Coun Porter issued a stark warning to council staff if they do decide to strike, saying: “If anyone does withdraw their labour it is a foolhardy course of action because Government pensions are the best in the country and I can’t see them getting public support for their cause.”

Yesterday, ahead of the ballot result, the Government urged unions to accept revised proposals for pensions, which would mean that those within ten years of retirement age will not have to work longer and they will keep their existing final-salary schemes.

New proposals also offer more generous accrual rates – the rate at which pensions build up in value – than planned and higher “cost ceilings”, the limit on contributions paid by the Government.

But nationally, unions said preparations for strike action “remain unchanged”.