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Date: 28 March 2006

Huge support for first day of action to defend pensions

UNISON, the largest Scottish Local Government union today welcomed the massive support from public sector workers across Scotland, and urged the Scottish Executive to come back to negotiations with a concrete offer to break the deadlock.

Matt Smith, UNISON's Scottish Secretary, said "The level of support for the strike across Scotland has exceeded even our expectations. Reports indicate that members in local government, further and higher education, police staffs, Scotland-wide agencies, the Meat Hygiene Service, have heeded the call and made it clear to government the strength of feeling LGPS members have on this issue."

Matt, also called on Tom McCabe, to withdraw his threat to early retirement provisions and negotiate changes to pensions provision. "Tom McCabe must stop using the Judicial Review to delay making his decision, and exercise his powers."

He said "Judicial processes can take months, and meanwhile LGPS members are facing his clear commitment to abolish the rule of 85. It is all very well to promise discussions, but we have had these with governments North and South of the border for months if not years. What is needed is a guarantee from Tom McCabe to treat LGPS members the same as other public sector workers. This is the first day of strike action, but should we not achieve a settlement, then we will be building on this support to repeat and extend this action."

Today's strikes have caused widespread disruption to services across Scotland. Schools, offices, libraries and sports and leisure centres are shut, transport is disrupted and roads and water maintenance work, cleaning and environmental health services has largely stopped for the day.

In Edinburgh, John Stevenson, UNISON's Edinburgh Branch Chair will tell the lobby outside the Scottish Parliament this morning. "Home carers, road workers, refuse workers, social care workers, cleaners, social workers, workers who protect our environment, our health and our safety, who look after the most vulnerable, who educate who care and who work damn hard to do all this all of the essential jobs in local government forcing them to work till they drop, or take cuts in the pensions they have paid into all their lives is not fair, is not reasonable, is not in the interests of public services and is frankly a damn disgrace."

In Glasgow, the Glasgow Caledonian University is shut because of the strike. Davena Rankin, UNISON's Glasgow Caledonian Branch Secretary said "It is deeply regrettable that because of the unreasonable stance of the Scottish Executive, the University is closed. People pay into the pension scheme all their lives and expect the Government to honour their side of the deal. Members deserve the pension they thought they were signing up for."

"The proposed changes will lead to a two tier pension system with lecturers in protected schemes and support staff penalised for remaining in the LGPS. All we want is the same protection as the other schemes."

ENDS

For Further Information Please Contact: Joe Di Paola (Scottish organiser - Bargaining) 0845 355 0845(w) 07958 121 861(m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0845 355 0845(w) 0771 558 3729(m)

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