London: A national strike by up to
750,000 public sector workers and teachers is set to go ahead
after the British government failed to reach a settlement with
union leaders over pension reforms.
Despite appearing to offer a significant compromise,
ministers were left fundamentally divided on major unresolved
gaps with unions, according to Brendan Barber, the general
secretary of the Trades Union Congress.
"In some areas it`s clear that there is a possibility
of agreement, but in terms of some of the key issues there is
clearly a major gap between our position and that of the
government," Barber said.
"The strikes will be taking place on Thursday. Four
unions balloted their members and reached that decision and
that reflects the degree of anger and worry and real fear
there is across everyone who works for public sectors that
their pensions are under threat," he said.
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the
National Union of Teachers, the University and College Union
and PCS, the civil service union, all confirmed they would go
ahead with the planned national walk.
Thousands of school and college students are also
expected to join teachers and civil servants in the strike
action by staging a new wave of occupations and demonstrations
as part of a wider campaign against the government`s austerity
In a joint statement, Cabinet Office Minister Francis
Maude and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander
described the talks as constructive and indicated that it was
preparing to offer concessions on the local government pension
scheme, covering 3.5 million mostly low-paid members.
"What the recent ballot results show is that there is
extremely limited support for the kind of strike action union
leaders are calling for," the joint statement also insisted.
The strike action is the largest in the UK for several
years and is expected to bring schools, colleges,
universities, courts, ports and job centres to a standstill
after overwhelming votes for industrial action.