PM vows ‘no climbing down’ over pensions clash

By staff

The government will remain "very firm" in the face of union strikes over public sector pensions, David Cameron has said.

The prime minister told BBC Radio 2 that he did not want to see industrial action, which is likely to result in a walkout by up to 750,000 staff on June 30th.

But he made clear he was committed to John Hutton's independent review of public sector pensions. His report recommended increasing contributions, ending final salary pensions and switching to the slower consumer price index of inflation.

"There's no question of climbing down," Mr Cameron said.

"We've got to have a system that is long-term affordable for the taxpayer, but I also want a system where people in the public sector feel they're getting a good pension.

"No one wants to have a confrontation, to see strikes. But the unions and the taxpayers need to know we will be very firm and very resolute in our approach because we absolutely need to have a long-term resolution that is affordable."

Last week the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union joined teachers' unions in a strike over their pensions.

Talks are ongoing but the PCS' general secretary Mark Serwotka has dismissed them as a "farce".

Any chances of a deal appeared to have disappeared after chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander confirmed public sector staff would have to work until they are 66 before becoming eligible for the pension.

"Not only are these cuts unnecessary, we believe they are deliberately provocative, calculated to stoke a confrontation with public servants," Mr Serwotka said.

"This is a deeply irresponsible way for a government to act."

The looming strikes have put Labour in an awkward position as leader Ed Miliband was only elected thanks to union support.

Yesterday saw shadow chancellor Ed Balls break the party's silence – although he stopped short of condemning potential strike action outright.

"The trade unions must not walk into the trap of giving George Osborne the confrontation he wants to divert attention from a failing economy," he told BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show.

"We should make sure we make this about fairness and negotiate. That's the best way forward.

"The British public does not want to go back to a decade where we had massive strikes and confrontation."