The government has signalled that a decision on whether controversial pension proposals are accepted will lie with Unison and the Royal College of Nursing, despite Unite’s rejection of the deal last week.
Last week Unite’s NHS executive voted unanimously to reject the government’s offer, which they claim would see an increase in contributions from 6.5% to 9.3% by 2014-15 for a large proportion of staff.
The deal, described by the government as its “final offer”, would also see staff move from a scheme where the amount paid out is determined by final salary to one based on career average earnings.
Unite is particularly concerned at plans to bring the retirement age for NHS staff in line with the state pensions age, which will eventually see staff working until they are 68. It is the first of the 15 unions involved in the negotiations to meet to discuss the deal put forward by the government in the week before Christmas.
All unions except Unite agreed it was the best deal that could be agreed through negotiation. Unison and the Royal College of Nursing are due to meet separately today on whether to formally accept it.
A Department of Health statement described the Unite decision as “disappointing” but sought to dismiss its importance.
A DH spokesman said: “Unite represents approximately 7% of the NHS workforce – it is important to remember that it is the decision of the unions representing the majority of staff which will determine the final NHS pension deal.”
Unite has around 100,000 NHS members compared to the 400,000 health workers each in Unison and the RCN – though this includes some independent sector staff and NHS contractors.
In an interview with Nursing Times this week, RCN general secretary and chief executive Peter Carter said that accepting the government’s offer would be a “difficult message” to give to college members.