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Last Updated: Monday, 27 March 2006, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
Minister issues warning on strike
School - generic
Many schools will be affected by the industrial action
A strike by local government workers will hit those who rely on vital public services, Finance Minister Tom McCabe has said.

About 200,000 workers in Scotland are expected to join the UK-wide action, sparked by a pensions row, on Tuesday.

Trade union Unison said it would be the biggest industrial action in Scotland in 80 years.

Mr McCabe said he was "disappointed" that unions were pressing ahead with the strike despite a compromise offer.

Age discrimination

Workers are unhappy over plans to scrap Rule 85 - which allows scheme members to retire without penalty from the age of 60 if their age and experience add up to at least 85.

Among those expected to take part in the strike are staff at Scottish Water, Lothian Buses, the Forth and Tay Bridges, the fire and rescue services and police support staff.

Nurseries and primary, secondary and special schools will also be affected by the UK-wide strike action.

Mr McCabe said the Scottish Executive believed the rule breaches EU rules on age discrimination.

If the rule wasn't there people would lose about 30% of their lump sum and their pension if they took early retirement
Joe Di Paola
Unison

He said: "When I met with the trades unions last week in an attempt to head off this strike, I offered them what I believe is a win-win scenario.

"The largest public sector union, Unison, has raised judicial proceedings in England in order to test the position. Should the courts decide their position is correct, then we will act in line with that finding."

Unison's Joe Di Paola said: "If the rule wasn't there people would lose about 30% of their lump sum and their pension if they took early retirement."

He said there was an "inherent unfairness" about local government workers not being able to take advantage of early retirement provision, while civil servants, teachers and NHS workers could.

'Tremendous co-operation'

Mike Brider, of T&G Scotland, said the workers wanted to be treated equally to other public sector workers who had their existing pension rights protected.

He added: "Despite working all their lives for their retirement, they must now work until they drop or face an old age in poverty relying on means-tested benefits."

Pat Watters, from local authority umbrella body Cosla, said there had been "tremendous co-operation" with the trade unions to ensure all vulnerable people would still receive services during the strike.

He said the dispute should have been resolved and that the only public sector workers who were not protected were those who worked within local government.

"The government has taken legal advice which is contrary to the advice we have and that the trade unions have," he added.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See how the strike will affect services



SEE ALSO:
Strike appeal rejected by unions
23 Mar 06 |  Scotland
Walk out to hit schools and buses
23 Mar 06 |  Scotland
Minister's plea over strike plan
15 Mar 06 |  Scotland
Council staff back mass strikes
15 Mar 06 |  UK Politics


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