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Government shift in approach to pensions reform

The CSP and other unions have met the government to discuss changes to the public sector pension scheme.

The prime minister, Tony Blair, asked secretary of state for work and pensions Alan Johnson to make 'a fresh start on discussions with the trade unions' amid concern about whether a genuine dialogue over the proposed reforms had taken place.

CSP director of employment relations and union services (ERUS) Lesley Mercer said the government's shift from 'consultation' over pensions to 'negotiation' represented a huge shift in its position.

The government made clear its new stance ahead of a meeting of the Trades Union Congress's public service liaison group last month, which led to a suspension of threats of strike action.

The meeting looked at two of the most contentious changes the government is proposing - to possibly raise the pension age from 60 to 65 for all public sector workers and replace the final salary scheme with one based on career average earnings.

Ms Mercer said: 'It is not going to be all plain sailing but the move from consultation to negotiation represents a significant change.

'We need to keep the pressure on to get what we want and for the CSP the critical matter remains the issue of raising the pension age to 65.'

This point was pressed home at last week's meeting with Mr Johnson at Department of Health headquarters.

Claire Sullivan, assistant director of ERUS, told the minister physiotherapists were at particular risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders due to the nature of their work.

This can make it problematic for them to work up to the age of 60, 'let alone 65', she said.

She also expressed the Society's other concerns over the proposals.

Members still have time to respond to the consultation exercise on the pension review to reinforce the arguments put forward on their behalf by the Society.

Members in England and Wales have until April 11 to get their submissions in. The deadline for members in Scotland is April 25 and in Northern Ireland April 30. \

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