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Most nurses prepared to take industrial action over pension threat


Nearly three quarters of nurses and midwives are prepared to take industrial action to protect public sector pensions, according to a Unison survey of 2,000 of its members.

The Hutton Review recently recommended an overhaul of the public sector pension system, including increasing the retirement age and member contributions, as well as moving to a career average, instead of a final salary scheme.

In March the government said that the recommendations were a “basis for consultation” with unions.

But the results of the survey, revealed to coincide with the start of two-day seminar for Unison nurses and midwives in York, showed 73% would take industrial action to protect their pensions.

Additionally, 86% of respondents believe the Hutton Review proposals would hit their standard of living now, and more than half said it would affect their ability to stay in their job.

Unison head of health Christina McAnea said: “It is not often that nurses and midwives even talk about industrial action, let alone say that they are prepared to take it. Pensions are a hot issue in the NHS at the moment and feelings are running high about the proposed changes. This survey shows that opposition is building.

“The government would do well to take note of this survey. Public sector workers are sick and tired about the myths of gold plated pensions.  A decent pension is surely not too much to ask after a lifetime of caring for others.”

A poll of more than 1,000 Nursing Times readers, published in March, found raising the retirement age appeared to be a bigger issue for nurses than scrapping final salary schemes or raising employee contributions.

Respondents rejected the idea as “impractical”, grossly unfair” and an “absolute disgrace”.


Readers' comments (65)

  • 75% is probably a fair number, although I'm sure the unions will ignore this. Is it not about time we actually got a union that will work for the members not bend over to the whim of the government.

    The unions seem to be forgetting the years of abuse we have suffered in terms of pay freeze and pay cuts, on top of years of tiny pay rises. I for one I'm looking at jobs abroad as are about 90% of my freinds. I don't ever see nurses getting a fair deal in the UK so I am planning to take all my skills and knowlage where it will be appreciated.

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  • here here
    i am in the process of moving to new zealand

    i am sick and tired of this govt and the way they attack our profession, increment freezes pay freezes, pension increases etc etc

    then they want to re-organise it at a cost of billions while trying to save billions beggers belief

    the nhs is dying on its knees and nobody cares

    time to get me thinks!!!

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  • Got to agree with both the above comments. Its time to quit the NHS.

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  • Anonymous 11th may; 12.54pm

    Aren't New Zealand in recession at the moment, and making lots of cutbacks too? My friends there(who aren't nurses) seem to think so. I too have seriously considered going there to work too. Perhaps now is the time.

    The term "gold plated public service pensions" makes my blood boil.

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  • Why is it JUST over pensions though? What about poor pay, piss poor working conditions, lack of staff, poor patient care due to conditions out of our control, etc etc etc????

    We should be fighting for ALL of these and much more besides!!!!

    I have to say though, I agree wholeheartedly with the above comments, for me Australia is the key, they are doing very nicely for themselves over there, and I have that from friends out there already!

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  • Adrian Bolt

    “Most nurses prepared to take industrial action over pension threat”

    No not quite, 73% of the 2000 nurses that were polled “said” they were prepared to take industrial action. Setting aside the ridiculously small sample size which means no meaningful conclusions can be drawn from this result consider this. If you conducted a similar survey but instead of asking are you willing strike over pensions asked instead, “Have you ever parked on a double yellow line” or “have you ever been cruel to puppies” you would get an equally predictable results.

    I hate to be the first to break this to you guys but a final salary pension really is a thing of the past and most if not such schemes in the private sector have closed completely or are closed to new employees.

    Ever since Nigel Lawson changed the rules on removing pension entitlement when you change jobs and the introduction of “pension contribution holidays” for schemes that were in surplus during the 1980’s and Gordon Brown ending of tax relief on pensions funds the real cost of providing a final salary pension has risen to a 1/3 of the individual’s salary.

    Add to that the miscalculation by pension fund actuaries of life expectancy, and the recent collapse of the equity markets in which most of those pension funds were invested and the true cost of providing a final salary pension rises to about 50% of your Gross salary.

    So there you have it. If you want to enjoy a final salary pension it will cost you about half of your current salary. Any takers? No I thought not.

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    Any ideas for solutions?

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  • Adrian Bolt

    A defined contribution scheme is probably your besr bet, that or an ISA.

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  • So shift responsibility and risk onto the employee.
    In a defined contribution scheme the contributions are paid at a fixed level and therefore it is the scheme member who is shouldering these risks. If they fail to take action by increasing contribution rates when investment returns are poor or costs increase, then their retirement benefits will be lower than they had planned for.
    When employers try to compare the real overall cost of providing a typical defined benefit scheme with a typical defined contribution scheme, they usually fail to compare like with like. It is often forgotten that because employers tend to benefit from favourable investment returns with defined benefit schemes, many defined benefit arrangements have actually cost a lot less than contribution levels suggest if you take into account contribution reductions and contribution holidays.
    Certainly when looking back beyond the recent troubled financial markets, it was not uncommon for defined benefit arrangements to be holding surpluses and/or to be taking contribution holidays. This will not be possible under a defined contribution scheme where the employer is required to maintain the agreed level of contributions irrespective of how well the investments are performing, subject only to the proviso that an individual cannot be over-funded (i.e. the benefits that can be purchased by their contributions cannot exceed the maximum as laid down by the Inland Revenue).

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  • Adrian Bolt

    @Anonymous | 12-May-2011 8:51 am

    So shift responsibility and risk onto the employee.

    Got it in one.

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