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Downing Street is confident of a public sector pensions deal being reached with the unions

By Joseph Willits 
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MaudealexanderAt a press conference this morning, David Cameron's official spokesman has expressed confidence from within Downing Street for reaching a deal with the unions over public sector pensions by the end of the year. A statement about the negotiations from Danny Alexander and Francis Maude, would also be "quite likely tomorrow". The spokesman said:

"We have been continuing to talk to unions in recent days about the pension reforms. We have always said that we wanted to reach an agreement before the end of the year and we remain hopeful of doing so."

Downing Street also denied reports that ministers had threatened to withdraw the pensions offer if the unions did not meet the deadline set at the end of this year. The spokesman said that whilst a withdrawal of the offer was a possibility, no threat to remove it had been made.

The spokesman was also asked whether the Government was following a "divide and rule" policy in negotiations with the unions:

"There are different schemes, they have different characteristics and their workforces have different characteristics. The NHS looks quite different in terms of distribution of income to teachers or civil servants, for example. The discussions are happening at the level of individual schemes."

As well as optimisim from within Dowing Street, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) Christine Blower, has also expressed her hope of a deal being reached, ensuring a happier Christmas for teachers:

"I always go in in an optimistic frame of mind and hope that the department will come through and make sure that teachers actually do have a merry Christmas and a very happy new year. And that will mean keeping our pensions as good as they have been."

The BBC notes that in earlier reports, Blower had stated that a deal had been reached, something which the NUT is now denying. According to the BBC, there is was also a deadline of 3pm today for unions to respond tho the Government's pensions offer.

Whilst the NUT's general secretary has expressed her "optimism", Russell Hobby of  the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) remains unconvinced that a deal could be reached by Christmas, due to the negotiation process within the unions.

"Talks continue and are particularly tense with looming, artificial deadlines. It is important to remember that unions are democratic organisations - no deal of this magnitude can be completed behind closed doors. Any outcomes - and there is no proposal on the table yet - will have to go to members and union executives."


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