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Health unions make plans for pensions walk out


Unions representing nurses and health service workers ranging from cleaners to managers are meeting this afternoon to discuss potential coordinated industrial action over changes to the NHS pension scheme.

The meeting at Unison’s offices in London has been called in response to fears ongoing pension talks with the government will not reach an agreement.

Representatives from the Royal College of Nursing, Managers in Partnership and the British Medical Association will join counterparts from Unite and GMB to talk about their current position around the pensions talks and how emergency cover wold be provided for patients in the event of a joint walk out.

A spokeswoman for Unison said it was “unprecedented” for all the unions to come together in this way and although they were “hoping for the best” from the pension talks, it was important to “plan for the worst”.

Disagreement is centred around the level of future contributions, the retirement age and the structure of public sector pension schemes, such as the continuation of final salary pension schemes.

RCN head of employment relations Josie Irwin played down the risk of industrial action but said it was “sensible” to be thinking about what would happen if negotiations broke down.

“That might mean one or all of the unions balloting for action and in that instance from the RCN’s perspective patient care is of the utmost importance. We need to think through these issues just in case,” she added.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said the NHS pension would remain one of the best available and the pensions people had already earned would be protected.

He added: “The proposals we are consulting on will protect the lowest paid in the NHS. Those earning less than £15,000 will pay nothing extra towards their pensions and a nurse earning £25,000 a year would pay £10 more a month in 2012-13.

“The pension individuals receive at normal pension age would be broadly as generous for low and middle income earners as it is now. Constructive talks on pensions are still ongoing. It would be very wrong to make assumptions about their outcome.”


Readers' comments (47)

  • I think its about time the unions stood up for the rights of nurses. The transport industries (i.e. London Underground) have fought for better terms and conditions through and industrial action and more times than not get what they want because they bring the country to ramsom when there is no train to get people to work. We currently start on less pay, less annual leave, and worse treatmen t from from the NHS compared to a London Underground worker working the barriers at stations in London. Where is the thanks, gratitude, and respect for us as professionals?

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  • I echo Anonymous' comment above. However, many colleagues I've spoken to have grown too disillusioned with the health service and the public's perception of the nursing profession to yearn any more for thanks, gratitude or respect, and would simply be content with having reasonable pay for reasonable work (we've already accepted a 2 year pay freeze), and keeping the pension the Government has led us to believe we would have since we started our careers. Nurses and their unions are seen as an easy, toothless, target when it comes to Government cuts.

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  • Where's Mike? Who will lead us to the barricades in his absence??? :(

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  • Anonymous | 25-Aug-2011 2:47 pm.

    We should carry Mike shoulder high through the barricades, and up to the doors of 10 Downing Street, where no doubt he will meet Leander Linh being carried the other way?

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  • About bloody time!!!!

    Now that the unions are finally getting off their collective arses, we need to capitalise on this!

    The pensions are only the starting point, there needs to be an ultimatum issued, 'our pensions are not getting touched. Period! And future Nurses pensions protected too!' Argument over. They have had their time for negotiation and blew it.

    Then we need to issue an ultimatum that any future threat to our pay, increments, pensions, working conditions or the profession in general will be met with great vengeance and furious anger! Gone are the days when Nurses bent over and took whatever we got, we are a powerful profession, and we will now use that power to better our own profession, improve healthcare provision in this country, and improve patient care.

    Once that is established, we should DEMAND pay that equals our status as highly qualified, highly skilled professionals and makes up for the pay cuts we have had over the past 2 years. Newly qualified band 5's should start on £24,000 - £25,000 a year and increments made appropriately for higher bands.

    We should DEMAND protected time within working hours for a robust, established programme of CPD delivered by the NHS.

    We should DEMAND a Nurse/patient ratio, equivalent to that which they already have in many American states, Australia, etc. This would instantly improve job prospects, patient care, staff morale etc and significantly decrease negative care, compo payouts etc.

    We should DEMAND the instant ceasing of the dismantling of the NHS by handing healthcare to private businesses via GPs, and DEMAND that Nurses run the NHS alongside Doctors and AHP's EQUALLY, without political interference.

    These are just a small section of the list of demands we should make, but we had better damn well make them now, otherwise we may as well just give up. This is our one shot, our time to act, so I urge all of you out there to take it, vote for strike action, turn out in our thousands and millions, let slip the dogs of war and show this government and this country that they mess with us at their bloody peril. And Carter et al, you had best start doing a hell of a lot more than just issuing press releases and fight!

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  • Good on you Mike!

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  • Mike you are spot on. We have been trodden on from a height for far too long now, the pension plans are the last straw. Fight we must, all together, shoulder to shoulder. It is the ONLY way to protect our jobs and the service we provide.

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  • Josie Irwin says,

    “That might mean one or all of the unions balloting for action and in that instance from the RCN’s perspective patient care is of the utmost importance. We need to think through these issues just in case,” she added."

    The RCN's should be concerning itself with the perspective of it's members, who this organisation is supposed to represent and who pay for it's existence!! We will provide the cover required. The RCN should quit the prevarication and get on with the business of representing the membership.

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  • Don't like to be pessimistic, and I really hope things turn out well, but don't hold your breath

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  • a good on ya mike but all this started in feb but i'm in on it mate! yes r c n and carter you have to buck up your idea's your members mean bissiness do the job or get out this is not nightingale era bless her! its 2011 and i think you are scared, of your job the goverment etc when is the rally Go!Go!Go!

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