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The reform that breaks the camel’s back?

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Trade union leaders have been warning for some time now that it would be pensions reform — not pay freezes or job cuts — that could prove the trigger for widespread public sector strikes this year.

Now activists, eager to punish the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, have all the ammunition they need in the Hutton pension review.

Few can argue that pensions do not need to be reformed. People in Britain are living longer, making it more expensive for the government and taxpayer to fund pension payments.

And private sector workers have long grumbled that the public sector has it too good when it comes to retirement.

A bigger role for unions?

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The trade unions are getting tough and threatening a wave of strikes this Winter unless Gordon Brown takes action to ease the effect of the economic downturn on their members.

At Brighton this week, union leaders will attack the government’s policy of pegging public sector pay rises to the official 2 percent inflation target, when inflation is actually running at 4.4 percent and expected to jump towards 5 percent  as food and fuel prices rise.

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