Attempts to completely stop the government’s reform of public sector pensions have been abandoned by health service unions.
Ministers unveiled a bill in Parliament last Thursday, setting out its proposals for NHS staff to earn a career average pension, with increased contributions and a retirement age linked to the state pension age of 68.
Despite widespread strike action against the pension changes by unions on 30 November last year, and the first industrial action by doctors since 1975, Nursing Times has been told unions have ruled out further strikes.
Instead they will focus efforts on winning crucial changes to specific proposals on staff working longer and securing fairer access to the NHS Pension Scheme, for example, for private sector nurses carrying out work for health service contracts. Both areas are subject to tri-partite reviews involving unions, employers and the Department of Health.
The decision to end the dispute follows disappointing ballot turnouts at the two largest nursing unions, Unison and the Royal College of Nursing. The RCN achieved a turnout of 16% with 62% voting to reject the pensions offer, while Unison saw just 15% of members vote with the result split 50:50.
Christina McAnea, chair of the NHS Staff Side Council and head of health at Unison, confirmed to Nursing Times that none of the health unions were continuing the dispute. She said: “No union in the NHS is now taking industrial action on pensions.
“The unions have taken a decision that the dispute is over, but the fight for fairer pensions continues. We have a long running campaign to address issues such as nurses working longer and fairer access to NHS Pensions.”