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Saturday, 11 November, 2000, 02:17 GMT
War grave gardeners' pay victory
War graves in Normandy
The gardeners tend more than half a million war graves
Gardeners who tend British war graves on the continent have won the first round of their battle against proposed pay cuts.

The Commonwealth's War Graves Commission has withdrawn plans to reduce allowances for gardeners living abroad while a review of the proposals is carried out.

The news is a welcome boost for the gardeners in the run-up to Remembrance Sunday.

The 77 Britons employed overseas have been fighting an average 6,000 cut in pay and allowances - almost 30% of their income - threatened by the commission.

The gardeners, who tend more than half a million war graves across Europe, including those at Normandy, Ypres and Arras, had threatened to strike over the plans.

But the commission, chaired by Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, announced an independent review of the proposals last month in an attempt to prevent strike action.

Value of sterling

It has now revealed that the review will be carried out by Baroness Dean, former leader of the Sogat print workers' union.

The commission's director-general Richard Kellaway said: "The proposed changes will be put on hold until the review has been considered.

"In the meantime, our staff will continue to receive their current pay and allowance package."

A spokesman for the commission made it clear that the gardeners' allowances were still under review.

He said Mr Kellaway had said it was his aim to ensure the gardeners' living standards did not drop.

But the proposed cuts were only taking into account the rise in the value of sterling against European currencies that meant they were now worth more.

"If sterling rises it falls. If sterling falls it rises," he said.

The commission had never planned to cut basic pay and was waiting to hear from union negotiators after offering the gardeners a rise on Friday, he said.

Officials hoped that the review would quickly end the dispute and ensure there was no disruption to the care of British war cemeteries, he added.

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30 Oct 00 | UK Politics
War graves row re-ignites
31 Aug 00 | UK
British war grave pay row
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