Alan Johnson, Former Labour Shadow Chancellor, Backs November 30 Public Sector Strikes

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A senior Labour politician has backed next week's public sector pensions strike despite Ed Miliband's calls for union chiefs and ministers to "leave no stone unturned" in finding a compromise.

Former home secretary Alan Johnson sympathised with more than two million workers who plan to take part in the 24-hour walkout on November 30.

He told BBC 5 Live: "Every independent trade union can ballot under very strict rules. If they can't do that over an issue as important as their pensions then what can they take industrial action over?" He continued: "On this issue I think the Government generally want to negotiate a settlement but they started off badly."

Labour leader Ed Miliband urged the Government and unions to leave "no stone unturned" in looking for a compromise. "I am very concerned about the cost of these strikes and that is why both sides must work to stop these strikes happening," he said.

The dispute over the strike worsened on Thursday when a row broke out over the cost of the strike and a union leader warned that industrial action will continue into 2012.

Government ministers said the walkout will lower output in the public and private sectors and could cost the economy half a billion pounds and lead to job losses.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said there was a correlation between economic output and employment, adding: "Exactly what that relationship is is very hard to anticipate but if we lose a big chunk of output it is hard to see how that does not translate into fewer jobs."

Unions accused the Government of "fantasy economics" and of "plucking figures out of the air" as they finalised plans for rallies, marches and meetings in towns and cities across the country next Wednesday in the biggest outbreak of industrial unrest since the 1979 Winter of Discontent.

The Prime Minister said the Government would do all it could to ensure the country keeps running next week, but he warned there would be disruption due to the "irresponsible" actions of trade union leaders.

Speaking during a visit to Toyota in Burnaston, Derbyshire, David Cameron said: "The offer we have made is a generous offer. The factory I'm standing in here in Derbyshire, Toyota, the employees working behind me here, they don't have access to anything like the pensions that people get in the public sector and they are paying taxes towards those pensions and they are going to suffer."

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