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NHS staff vote in favour of strike


NHS staff and managers have voted to strike at the end of the month in protest at planned changes to public sector pensions.

Seventy seven per cent of people responding to a ballot issued by union Unison said they wanted to take part in the mass public sector walkout due to take place on 30 November.

The ballot covered NHS workers including nurses, hospital porters, midwives, cleaners, as well as members of the Managers in Partnership union.

Among NHS employees, 82% voted to strike. However the turnout was only 25%.

They will potentially join millions of other staff belonging to health unions that are awaiting their own ballot results, including Unite, the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists and the British Dietetic Association.

What would the government’s latest offer mean for nurses? View this interactive diagram for a clearer look at public sector pensions

The union members are angry at proposals to raise the retirement age, increase employee contribution rates and scrap final salary pensions.

Yesterday, the government made a renewed offer to unions that would increase the accrual rate and protect those closest to retirement from some of the changes.

Unison’s general secretary Dave Prentis said: “The decisive yes vote in the ballot reflects the deep concern that our members have over government ministers’ proposals for their pensions.

“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.

“We support the TUC day of action on 30 November, but will be negotiating right up to then and beyond to get a fair deal for our members.

“Senior lay officials of the union are meeting throughout the afternoon to discuss the latest government statement on pensions and to decide what action to take as a result of the strike ballot.”

It is not widely expected in the service that many managers will choose to strike. However, they may support the action in other ways.

MiP will consider what the result means for members and issue a letter regarding managers’ role in contingency planning for industrial action. Chief executive Jon Restell told HSJ: “Each manager will make up their minds about what to do.”

He said members who chose not to strike might like to consider alternatives such as sacrificing some of their pay to support the campaign, joining lunchtime protests or writing letters to MPs.

Of the government’s offer yesterday, he said: “It’s very helpful, although it’s a bit late. It certainly won’t be enough to change the 30 November dynamic.”

Latest pension offer: pay more and retire later

The latest offer on public sector pensions was announced in parliament last week by chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander.

The deal would mean NHS pensions continue to be “defined benefit” schemes, so a guaranteed amount would be provided in retirement.

The accrual rate - part of the formula used to value pensions - will stay at one sixtieth of earnings for each year of service. The government had previously proposed reducing this to one sixty-fifth. It will still be based on the average amount earned throughout a person’s career rather than their final salary.

Mr Alexander said the changes would give nurses “with a lifetime in public service”, with a £34,200 salary at retirement, an annual pension of £22,800, whereas under the current arrangements they would only get £17,300.

However, by 2046, nurses would work until the age of 68. Now many can retire at 55 or 65, depending on when they joined the pension scheme.

The government plans would also require all NHS employees earning more than £15,000 to pay a bigger proportion of their salaries towards pensions.

Nurses within 10 years of retirement would be “protected” from the rise in retirement age and any decrease to the value of their pensions, Mr Alexander said.


Readers' comments (64)

  • Now UK nurses that are with UNISON tell me what this means for you guys
    Im not sure how you work it over there as are nurses going to strike outright...or take Industrial Action as in bed closures first?
    Thats what we will do in Melbourne if Industrial action is voted in, we will probably close beds first... or maybe even work to rule. Not sure yet.

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  • About bloody time!!!

    Unfortunately Yvonne, this is not a Nurses strike organised by Nursing unions on Nursing issues. This is a public services strike organised by a public service union on the single issue of pensions.

    However, many Nurses WILL take strike action at the end of November, and Nurses HAVE voted to strike, despite the pathetically low turnout. (25%, what a joke).

    But this will send a clear message that we will no longer just accept whatever is thrown at us. When we win on this issue (and we will, the government has already started to back down) I am hoping that Nurses here will FINALLY get the bloody message that strike action WORKS, that we can and should fight for the other issues that affect our profession, pay, increments, staffing levels, job cuts, etc.

    We are taking a long time to wake up over here, but it is happening.

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  • I wonder what the RCN’s view is on this outcome and on balloting its own members. The RCN isn’t part of the TUC so I'm not sure how they’ll play it. I suspect that the “NHS workers including nurses” referred to in the article will be a significant under-representation of nurses in the NHS without RCN members being included.

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  • Well said Mike. it has been a long time coming.
    It might have been a low turn out but that 25% will be more next time, those who were afraid to make a decision this time wont be next now they know how many feel the same as them.
    For years the different governments used the fact that we had a reasonable pension deal to justify ridiculously low pay rises. This is just another insult to all those who settled for ridiculously low pay rises for years, for a better pension deal.
    Well done to all those who had the courage to vote in favour of strike action.

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  • Hope that this doesn't mean that us students are going to be left with too much responsibility on the day.

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  • Can a strike really work?

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  • Most of nurses I work with are in GMB, not RCN and I have just received my ballot pack. Such a shame that I'm already off that week

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  • Mike and Dorothy. I couldn't agree more with both of you.

    Anonymous | 3-Nov-2011 5:21 pm

    Please remember that, as a student, you are not a Nurse and are supernumerary. You are not there to take on the responsibilities of Registered Nurses. But, aren't students going to be supporting the action being taken? I went out on strike when I was a student, as did all my fellow student nurses. (That was in the 80s).

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  • Little One

    I am rostered to work the night on the 29th and 30th and voted yes for strike action. Doesn't look like I'll be able to join the picket line. It's about time we stood up for ourselves though. I eagerly await proper instructions on what to do and to see what the NMC really do say about third year students.

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  • Well, I for one won't strike. Sorry, nurses, if the Government is backing down without a strike then why not be professional and keep negotiating? Keep protesting and pushing for our retirement and working lives, yes. We have a responsibility to make savings (not in staffing) but we need the support of the public as our respect is at an all time low. I am afraid that we will lose any professionalism we still have by striking. (By the way, I am not a Lib Dem or Conservative so this is NOT backing the government.)

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