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Date: WEDNESDAY 15 MARCH 2006

MASSIVE STRIKE DAY LOOMS OVER CUTS TO LOCAL GOVERNMENT PENSIONS

Over 200,000 of Scotland's most essential public sector workers will strike on 28 March to protest at unfair and unjust cuts to local government pensions, the Joint Union Strike Team (JUST) announced today.

The strike is planned because the Government refuses to give protection for existing members of their pension scheme. Members of nine of the UK's biggest unions have overwhelmingly voted "YES" to strike action because the Government and the Local Government Association (Council employers in England and Wales) refuse to pay out what they promised on the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS).*

The Government wants to get rid of the Rule of 85 which means LGPS members will have to keep working until they are 65 or take up to 0ne third less pension, even though they have been paying 6% of their salary into the pension scheme and planning for their retirement for years.

Here in Scotland, the Scottish Executive has announced that it will follow Westminster's lead, despite opposition to the move from the main employers body - CoSLA - and the healthier position of LGPS schemes in Scotland. UNISON, Scotland's biggest union, has the largest number of members affected.

Chairing today's press conference, UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis said: "Around 80% of UNISON members voted in favour of this strike action to support LGPS members. By refusing to pay out on the LGPS, especially when they have given protection to every other government pension scheme, the Scottish Executive is destroying the retirement plans of thousand of public sector workers.

Joe Di Paola, UNISON's Scottish Organiser - Bargaining said: "Three quarters of LGPS members are women, who did exactly what the government told them and started paying for their retirement out of their earnings and now the rules get changed and they have to work an extra five years.

"After a lifetime of dedicated service to their local communities, our members deserve the pensions they have already paid for. We have been negotiating for months over this issue, and it is still not too late for Governments on both sides of the border, to sit down and talk sense. Dave Prentis continued:

"The latest figures from independent actuary Aon show small costs and huge savings for employers if protection for existing members is retained and both the Government and English employers accept these findings."

"Civil servants, teachers, police, firefighters and the NHS have all been given protection for existing members of their pension schemes, so there is absolutely no rhyme or reason in singling out LGPS members for such unfair and unjust treatment.

"The Government must extend the same protection to existing LGPS members that it has given to all other public sector workers. To continue to refuse to do so is unfair, unjust and inexplicable. Ends Notes to editors .

Eight unions released their ballot results this morning; Amicus announced last week that its members had voted 9 to 1 in favour of strike action

For more information: Susie Haywood, UNISON Press Office, 020 7388 1183 or 07738 352 209 Scotland Chris Bartter, Scottish Communications Officer 07715 583 729

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