Unison members vote for pension strike

Unison ballot papers The 1.1 million member ballot was the biggest in the history of UK industrial relations

Members of the Unison trade union have voted in favour of striking against the government's plans to change public service pension schemes.

There was a 78% majority, with 245,358 in favour and 70,253 against on a 29% turnout.

The vote means there is likely to be a huge national strike on 30 November.

On Wednesday, the government offered to change its plans, which are aimed at cutting the cost of funding public service pensions.

Following the ballot result, the Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude called on Unison members not to go ahead with a strike.

"We listened to the concerns of public sector workers about their pensions and yesterday responded with a new generous settlement which is beyond the dreams of most private [sector] employees."

"Today's Unison ballot received a very low turnout - with less than a third of their members even voting - which shows there is extremely limited support for the kind of strike action their union leaders want," he added.

However, the government's changes to its original plans have met with only a lukewarm response from public sector unions.

Start Quote

We still have had no offer in those negotiations”

End Quote Dave Prentis Unison general secretary

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: "Yesterday's statement in Parliament was a marked improvement on earlier proposals."

"But it is important to understand that the statement has to be translated into offers in the scheme-specific talks.

"We still have had no offer in those negotiations, where such an offer can legitimately be made," he added.

Combined action

The 30 November "day of action" is being co-ordinated by the TUC and could involve members of 20 trade unions in the public sector.

Dave Prentis: ''There has been no offer whatsoever... what we had over the last 48 hours was as statement of principles by government''

Five already have a mandate for action from earlier this year, while the others are still in the process of balloting their members.

If they all vote in favour of action, then the day may turn into the biggest co-ordinated strike since 22 January, 1979.

Then, during the so-called "winter of discontent", four big public sector unions held a strike in pursuit of a pay rise above the then Labour government's 5% ceiling.

As well as many NHS and local government staff, Unison represents police staff (though not police officers), probation officers, and clerical and ancillary staff in schools, colleges and universities, who are all in the local government pension scheme.

Some civil servants across the UK took part in a pension strike in June this year.

They were joined by many teachers and further education lecturers in England and Wales, and the next strike is likely to involve them all again.

Changes planned

The government's pension plans have been largely inspired by Lord Hutton's independent inquiry into the rising cost of public service pensions.

He suggested that most staff should pay higher contributions, with the increases being phased in during the next three years.

Then, from 2015, most current staff and all new recruits will be offered career-average schemes instead of the more expensive, mainly final-salary, versions now on offer.

These new schemes will typically involve staff working to later pension ages, which in turn will rise in step with the state pension age.

The government has made it clear all along that it wants public employees to work longer, and pay more.

But it argues that for most staff the pensions they receive will be the same as before, or even better.

Negotiations with trade unions have been taking place over the past few months, and more are scheduled, but there has been no agreement so far.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    Sick and tired of the private sector saying that we are greedy. As an NHS pharmacist, I may have a decent pension, but a much lower salary and never earn bonuses as my private sector counterparts would. The decent pension is one of the main reasons we all stick it out in an underpaid, overworked NHS. We look after people during our careers, it is only fair we should be looked after in retirement!

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.


    These arguments about a low turn out are nonsense. What percentage of the whole population actually voted for the Tories in the last General Election?"

    Nearly twice as many in percentage terms as Unison members voting for strike action.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    Public sector pensions are vastly more generous than private sector pensions and public sector employees are better paid on average by around 8%. Therefore it makes me feel physically ill that certain public sector workers feel morally justified to strike and complain about what are some of the most generous pensions around.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    I work in the public sector and have a pension, why should my years of low pay go unrewarded.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    I despair at the financially ignorant on this site.
    1 Labour ramped up expenditure in line with tax income, during the "boom" years.

    2 Tax income dropped as a result of the Financial crisis.

    3 The Coalition is trying to rebalance income & expenditure.

    Opinion: Public service has lot's of non jobs, big PR machines, self interest/ corruption. Risk that useful jobs are cut & dross kept.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    I work in local govt and think that the revised offer was not that bad. the people I know who were planning to strike are in their 50's so now with these revised proposals they will be unaffected. As far as I'm concerned I agree that we need to work longer and pay at bit more, people live longer do the Maths! Look at the way other European public sector staff are treated, it could be much worse

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    Don't forget it was Gourmless Clown that wanted the cheap vote by overbloating the public service to say how wonderful his employment figures were.

    You lefties voted for that and got sold not Thatcher so lay in your beds. It's tough for all of us at the moment and this Greek idelology of do nothing whilst given everything is the poison in today's society!

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    So lets work this out.
    There was a 78% majority, with 245,358 in favour and 70,253 against on a 29% turnout.
    That means 100% of the 71% that didnt vote dont want to have anything to do with this action. funny what stats show.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    This is all part of the same agenda... see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-15572524 - the Govt now don't want to make benefits go up in line with inflation!! What more is there to say since this says it all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    88. tangleweb
    The government's stance would be easier to respect if they announced a full and independent review of the final salary pension scheme for MPs.
    Your are of course right, but if they did the same for union leaders as well. We could all then see how similar they are. Both take us all for a ride.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    A colleague today also pointed out that if Union members all pulled out then the money they saved in annual union fees would cover some of their pension shortfall. Just an idea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    John Major successfully grew the economy by stimulating the private sector (his premiership saw the loss of 800,000 public sector jobs but the creation of 1.7 million private sector jobs). Whatever else can be said of him he left this country in fine financial fettle. Cameron cannot attack the public sector without a credible strategy for creating private sector growth. Where is that strategy?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    With just 22.6% of the union members voting in favour of a strike, will this end up like the miners' strike, where Arthur Scargill started off with a small house and a huge union, and ended the strike with a huge house and a small union?

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    Striking achieves exactly what, loss of a days pay! Does the Union reimburse the strikers for their loss of pay! How much do the Union Leaders actually earn and do they lose a days pay! What will be the end result of a day of action except less money in the coffers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    The low turnout is normally the result of those not supporting it but not wanting to vote against it.

    In either case I don't select between bankers etc and public sector workers to fight one or the other, instead I'll fight against both taking the micky.

    In this case I really hope the government sticks to its guns.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    they get more fore a pension than some get as a living wage and the do so little for it i say take a percentage of them every time the union bosses opens there mouth and reduced by 25% every time they strike.or perhaps a pass related pension showing how good or bad they are.If they don't like the job and the perks then get out and shut up

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    The government has been disingenuous throughout these so called negotiations. If they are being honest and open why do they continue to refuse to publish the valuation report they commissioned of the Teachers Pension Scheme.

    If there really is an unaffordable deficit looming on the horizon then surely the TPS valuation report will highlight this and support their pension cuts.
    So why not publish.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    The government's stance would be easier to respect if they announced a full and independent review of the final salary pension scheme for MPs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Yes only 22.62% of the total possible vote went for strike action but remember that, in the 2010 general election, Camerons conservatives got 36.1% of the vote on a 65% turnout which is 23.4% of the total possible vote. Not a lot more than this vote is it?

    Such is democracy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    The problem with a lot of you on here is you forget the history of the working class, where men and their families went without so that we could have a better future. Many of you voted for Thatcher I suspect; and this is the result. Long working days, long working years, less pension, no rights in the workplace. Why? Because Mrs Thatcher sold you the idea you were middle class.


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