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.