The Royal College of Nursing has warned ministers that balloting on industrial action is “inevitable” if ministers do not change their plans on pension reform.
Changes proposed by the government would raise the retirement age to 66 by 2026 and force staff to pay more in contributions.
At yesterday’s annual general meeting in London, general secretary and chief executive Peter Carter said the NHS pension scheme is currently already “providing a profit for the Treasury of £2bn a year”.
Regarding the proposed changes, he said: “You’re being asked to pay more, work longer and receive less. It’s totally unacceptable… this is a fight the government didn’t need to have at this moment in time. Even now, I would implore the government to rethink this, and row back. It’s about doing what’s right and proper.”
Last month a special meeting of the RCN council chose not to ballot for industrial action. Mr Carter defended the decision, as negotiations were still ongoing. But he added: “I will put a marker down for the government. Unless there is change, it is inevitable that there will be a ballot.”
Over coming days the college would “crank up” its campaign against the plans, Mr Carter said. He also called on RCN members to make sure they respond if and when they are balloted, “as ultimately it’s about what the members say”.
His comments echoed those of RCN president, Angela Spyropoulos, who told the AGM: “A ballot on industrial action is inevitable if your concerns are not listened to and the deal on the table doesn’t change significantly. We won’t accept what’s being offered to you now.”
She added: “I want you to return the ballot papers, badly. But do rest assured that any action that we do take will have a real impact and your voice will be heard. Some of you think we should already have balloted and not seen the negotiations to the end.
“But we only get one chance at this to get it right – and a loaded gun is more threatening than a fired one. We know what can happen to the reputation of a profession and a union when action is taken too early and we don’t want to hurt your chances of getting the pension you deserve.”
Closing the meeting, Ms Spyropoulos said: “As a Liverpool girl I’m always ready for a fight. I’m going to send a message to the government – don’t you mess with the nurses, mate, because if you do you will live to regret it. If you want your history to be the first time in the history of this college to have nurses taking industrial action, then shame on you.”