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 705.

    I believe much of this is about reducing pension benefits to make it easier to hive off public sector jobs to the private sector. As we are assured on here by so many, the private sector have already on worse t and c's. The race to the bottom is almost complete. Mmm. Where were all these public sector bashers when the private sector was coining it in the 80s and 90s? Not a peep.

  • rate this

    Comment number 704.


    That charge was voluntary, not a tax. The idea was to stop short termism by the pension funds constantly paying dividends rather than reinvesting. The real problem was caused by the employers/managers.

    Don't believe all you read in the Daily Mail.

  • rate this

    Comment number 703.

    699. Divots.
    You are stereotyping. Please don't. I didn't vote for Labour.

    It does suck. The answer to all of this is to grow the private sector and deliver lower public sector expenditure, not hammer individual groups.

  • rate this

    Comment number 702.

    @694.James Daly Brown did not 'raid' pension funds

    Fact - In 1997, Gordon Brown scrapped tax relief on dividend payments into pension funds. That resulted in a £5 billion loss per year for the funds. Roughly £75 billion to date. Gordon Brown pretty much destroyed the Final Salary Pension scheme for Private Sector employees. The guy is a criminal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 701.

    "..scale of the deficit..caused by the injection of cash into the banks."

    The deficit is basically caused by excess of govt spending on public services over the tax take.
    Under the last govt post 2001 this gap was c.7% p.a. on average. So a deficit existed already even before the crisis (now worsened by lower taxes since).
    Union leaders won't tell you this of course.

  • rate this

    Comment number 700.

    694 James

    Tosh yourself.

    So Brown didn't raid pension funds, huh?

    What about the £5b tax credits he took away every year? When 'Gordon the Moron' came to office in 1997 Britain had one of the best pensions sectors in the world. When the unelected, unwanted and useless man was thrown into history's dustbin in 2010 we had the worst.

    A disaster made entirely in Number 11 Downing Street.

  • rate this

    Comment number 699.

    So because the Government shafted the private sector you think its fair that the public sector should get shafted by a different Govt?

    It's hardly a shafting! You can't continually whack the private sector, the motor of the economy to keep you guys sitting pretty. It sucks but I'm guessing you voted for 13 years of Labour that put you in this position? Coming home to roost....

  • rate this

    Comment number 698.

    Dear Messers Daly, Gary and balanced. Will you please stop letting the facts get in the way of a good ole spleen venting from the self-righteous. Their gander is well and truly up on this, and a soft target is so much easier to hit out at than the REAL villians of the peace.

    I know I've hit the mark, my comments are getting so many neg ratings I feel I am at the bottom of a coal mine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 697.

    Given what the government put on the table this week and the economic state of the country, government and the world the union is acting in a terribly irresponsible way. Sounds like the union was hellbent on a strike no matter what happened. This is, plain and simple, a political strike against not just the government but the British people, their ultimate sources payment, as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 696.

    Public or private sector, reduced pensions are bad news. Any shortfall at the bottom still has to be made up by the state in benefits further down the line. Stealing from individual's pensions to reduce the deficit is crimininal. Also, unions represent members. Private pensions were plundered because not enough private workers were union members.

  • rate this

    Comment number 695.

    686 confucious fred.
    The size of the public sector is certainly a burden when there's a huge defecit. The scale of the deficit itself was caused by the injection of cash into the banks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 694.


    Utter tosh.

    Brown did not 'raid' pension funds; the problems were caused by greedy employers taking contribution holidays and unwisely overinvesting in dodgy companies during the dotcom boom.

    Why should unions represent non members? Most private sector workers had abandoned their membership by the 80s.

  • rate this

    Comment number 693.

    The trouble with unions and strikes is that people tend to end up with pay/perks not related to the difficulty of their job, stress involved or the skill required but instead relative to the amount of damage they can do by witholding labour.

    Yes, top level pay is unfair especially with execs rewarding themselves grossly, so is expecting the private sector to pay for your pension.

  • rate this

    Comment number 692.

    They may not have to work longer or pay more for a pension, because if they insist in carrying on with strike action they may not even have a job to go to.

    Why don't they attend work on the day scheduled for the strike and donate their days pay to the pension fund.
    That way they make their protest and the pension fund gets topped up - Simple.

  • rate this

    Comment number 691.

    682. Divots.
    So, because the Government shafted the private sector, you think it's fair that the public sector should get shafted by a different Government? Classic race to the bottom stuff. Oh, and by the way, my pay has now been frozen for 3 years so please don't create the impression that the public sector is sheltered. If you are not in possession of all the facts, please don't comment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 690.

    To all public sector workers who are considering industrial action, stand tall and forget about the "cheap shots" that nameless/faceless people on media outlets say about you or your occupation. You are entitled to what you signed up for!! You will not see our politicians taking a pension cut so why should you. Keep up the goodwork each and everyone of you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 689.

    Where were the unions when private sector workers were having their pensions raided by Brown? Let them rot, they're still getting better than most out there. Pure greed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 688.

    The public sector needs to raise its game. Improve efficiency, become more productive and stop joining useless politically motivated unions with more interest in furthering their own dinosaur political agenda of yesteryear than genuinely addressing the needs of their members.

    More than 70% counldn't be botheres to vote in this ballot.

    Tells me all I need to know about the level of support!

  • rate this

    Comment number 687.

    Long term the only sensible solution fair to all is get rid of all company or public service pensions completely and only allow personal pensions. Then we all get exactly what we are willing to pay for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 686.

    682. Divots
    This massive defecit is because Labour expanded the public sector employment to 42% of the workforce in the UK, so the cuts we now face should impact on the public sector.


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