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 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 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 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 85.

    This is madness! The country is in serious debt; similar to the sort of debt that currently is bringing Greece to its knees. Just what alternatives are the protesters in their day of action willing to put forward instead of just 'protesting'. I value 'protest' in a democratic society just so long as the protesters have the wit and wisdom to offer realistic alternatives -and so far, there are none.


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