The first major battle over public sector pensions could be about to begin.
The government is insisting that talks over the local government scheme are finalised by next week and that a new scheme comes into effect next April.
Local government unions were recently presented with a series of changes that were worse than the ones which led to by 1.25 million workers voting for stikes earlier this year.
The proposals included more of workers’ pay being deducted as pension contributions, and the abolition of the “rule of 85” which allows retirement for some workers at 60 if they have 25 years service.
In March the government said it wanted to phase out the rule of 85 by 2013. Now it wants to remove it immediately.
Deputy prime minister John Prescott has also ruled that a separate set of discussions on the principles that should govern changes to public sector pension schemes in general should exclude the local government. He wants to break the unity of workers against the assaults.
It is crucial that unions fight together and do not allow any one section of workers to be picked off.
An even wider struggle over pensions is coming soon.
On 30 November Adair Turner will present the findings of the pensions commission. In January the government will respond.
If it gets away with attacking local government workers’ pensions, then it will be encouraged to make us all retire later and receive less.