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Last Updated: Monday, 21 March, 2005, 12:38 GMT
Pension row strike is called off
A protester at a pensions rally
Up to a million workers were expected to join the strike
A 24-hour strike by about a million council workers has been called off.

Unions cancelled Wednesday's walkout following a breakthrough in the row over raising the pension age for local government workers from 60 to 65.

Ministers pledged to revoke changes, due to come into force on 1 April, after workers from bin collectors to dinner ladies threatened to walk out.

Two other civil service unions will also decide on Monday whether to call off their strike on the same issue.

Local government workers would have been the first affected by the changes, but later other public sector workers like teachers, nurses and firefighters faced the same changes

I am pleased that the government has listened
Dave Prentis, Unison

The government says reform is needed because people are living longer, but admitted there were "misunderstandings and suspicion" of its plans.

The strike by the country's biggest unions including Unison, Amicus, the Transport and General Workers' Union and the GMB would have taken place within weeks of a general election - predicted for 5 May.

Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis said: "The strike is off but I have no doubt that had it gone ahead on Wednesday we would have seen a massive show of strength and solidarity across public services.

"However, I am pleased that the government has listened," he added.

"We now look forward to meaningful talks on the future of our members' pension schemes."

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott will now set up negotiations between the government, unions and employers, to discuss the future of local government pension schemes.

Work and Pensions Minister Alan Johnson has called for a "fresh start" on discussing the dispute, saying: "I think we need to take the time to get this right."

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