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British union leaders threaten to pull plug on pension reform talks

BRITISH union leaders last night threatened to walk away from talks over pensions reform yesterday after the government detailed plans to require public sector employees to work longer and pay more for less generous entitlements in retirement.

Chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, provoked fury by warning workers it would be a "colossal mistake" to reject a deal that was the best they could hope for.

The reforms include increasing the general retirement age in the public sector from 60 to 66, moving from a final salary system to benefits based on career-average earnings and raising contributions by 3.2pc.

Unions chiefs responded angrily to Mr Alexander's intervention yesterday, accusing him of trying to sabotage talks by announcing details of the government's position to the media.

The GMB threatened to pull out of the talks altogether.

TUC said the speech had dealt "a serious blow to the unions' confidence in the talks.

Unite union assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said Mr Alexander's intervention was "tantamount to bombing the talks", while the FDA, the union representing senior civil servants, accused "hardliners" at the Treasury of "doing their best to provoke strike action".

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