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UNISON, the UK's largest union, today called off planned strike action by 800,000 of its public sector members due to go ahead on Wednesday (23 March), following an 11th hour agreement reached last Friday.

Lengthy negotiations led by UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis, led to a written statement by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, confirming the withdrawal of the Amendment Regulations, which would have raised the pension and retirement ages. He also agreed to the setting up of a negotiating forum on the Local Government pension scheme with "nothing ruled in or out".

At the same time Work and Pension's Minister Alan Johnson called for a fresh start on discussions and for real negotiations on pensions across the whole of the public sector, saying "I think we need to take the time to get this right".

Dave Prentis General Secretary of UNISON 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. Our aim throughout talks with the Deputy Prime Minister has been to have these regulations revoked and to have real negotiations on how we can have a viable, sustainable pension scheme that will benefit all. We have achieved both these objectives and we now look forward to meaningful talks on the future of our members" pension schemes.

"The commitment we have from the Deputy Prime Minister would not have been possible without the determined campaigning and hard work of our members. Local Government unions have presented a united front and the support of the PCS and FDA also contributed to the successful outcome of the talks.

"We also have to thank more than 200 MP's for their active support in UNISON's campaign."

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