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RCN stalls on pensions deal decision after poor ballot turnout


The Royal College of Nursing’s council has held back from rejecting the government’s latest pensions offer after a poor ballot turnout among members.

Two thirds of those that did vote in the ballot, held this month, voted to reject the deal.  

However, despite urging from the college to take part in the ballot, turnout was only 16%.

As a result, the RCN’s council has for the time being chosen not to reject or accept the pension proposals on the back of the ballot result and will instead seek urgent discussions with other health unions, which are currently in the middle of similar membership consultations.  

Doctors are to be balloted on industrial action short of a strike, the British Medical Association announced on Saturday. Over 80% of the 46,000 BMA members who responded to a pension survey in January said the government’s offer should be rejected.

RCN ballot papers were sent in the first week of February with the closing date Monday 27 February.

Senior college figures, including chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter and senior employment relations adviser Gerry O’Dwyer, both made videos urging members to take part.

However, 65,759 votes were cast, a turnout of 16.17% from the college’s 400,000 membership.

Of those who voted, 41,009 (62.36%) voted to reject the government’s proposals, while 24,533 members (37.30%) voted to accept the proposals.

Nursing Times understands the RCN felt it would not have a mandate to reject or accept the government’s proposals unless turnout was 20% or above.

The RCN governing council met today to discuss the “next steps” following the vote. 

Council chair Kath McCourt said: ““While the members who voted expressed a clear view, showing their anger at the government proposals, we are disappointed that more of our members did not take the opportunity to vote. 

“We will now, as a matter of urgency, meet with other unions who are at varying stages in their own member consultations.”

Mr Carter added: “Throughout this process, our members’ number one concern about pensions has been the prospect of working in a physically demanding job until the age of 68; which is due to take effect in 2046.

“We vehemently believe the demands of nursing mean that the same should apply to our profession and we are committed to stepping  up campaigning on this issue to make the government change its mind.”

Responding to the ballot result, health secretary Andrew Lansley said:  “It is disappointing that some RCN members have voted against the proposals.  

“Most nurses over 45 will not be affected by any changes. Everything people have already earned will be protected and most low and middle earners working a full career will receive pension benefits at least as good, if not better, than they get now.”

He added: “But change is necessary – people are living longer, healthier lives.  Today, a nurse can expect to spend nearly 33 years in retirement – around 9 years more than 30 years ago.”  


Readers' comments (51)

  • Another chance to unite as a profession, and show the strength of our voice, but this has failed to materialise. Is it a sign that we are disfranchised or that we do not care. I would hope neither, but this another chance that has not been used to show we are a profession to be taken seriously. As someone who voted, I find this to be disapointing, as might the others who voted!

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  • Another opportunity in which to unite and show the strength of our voice, and for other to recognise our resolve. The poor response has led to another disapointment as a profession, is it because we are disinfranchised or do not care. I hope neither in this case, but it saddens me that others did not use this opportunity!

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  • Absolutely disgraceful!! There were plenty of opportunities to vote and many reminders from the RCN as the closing date approached.

    Any nurse who didn't bother to vote has no right to complain about their pension package. You will now get what you deserve. A poorer pension with increased contributions and a much older retirement age. Serves you right!

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  • What is the problem with you people yes I am addressing the RCN members who have shown such apathy when asked to vote on such an important issue which will affect all members I hope you are ashamed very ashamed

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  • And yes I voted

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  • i found it difficult to vote as i work for the private sector and since working for this sector have come to realise what i am missing even with the revised deal i think the offer is reasonable given the fact i have to fund my own pension

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  • tinkerbell


    Either way good luck to you's 84%. You had your chance. I'm outta here. Goodbye.

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  • Anonymous | 28-Feb-2012 7:18 pm

    This is not a public v private sector issue. And this is not a good deal.

    You have fallen into the trap of believing the government rhetoric. So instead of fighting for better pension conditions for private sector workers, you are under the deluded belief that public sector workers are getting a good deal, (and somehow don't deserve it). The truth is, we ALL deserve a decent pension. Remember also, that up until the last 5 years, public sector workers have been paid significantly lower than the private sector and this was off-set in some way by the promise an adequate pension (not gold-plated, and only worthwhile if you contributed over many years, without breaks of service to bring up kids, etc). David Cameron must be laughing his socks off!!

    Oh yeah. United we ironic.

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  • I am 60, work P/T now having taken my pension 18 months ago....and I voted and fought for a fair deal for all you that have a prospect of having to work until you are 67/8. If we can't show we have a voice, we may as well lay down and ask to be kicked in the teeth. The police can retire after 30 years service (in fact they have to, I believe). Perhaps that is too early (48-ish), but it is 20 years before you are going to get a chance to. Speak now or forever hold your peace, or is it too late?
    I JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND THOSE OF YOU THAT DIDN'T VOTE. Like Tinkerbell, I'm outa here and Good Luck, you are going to need it.

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  • To all those who didn't vote hope you will be happy working when aged 68. I voted to reject the deal even though I will be going later this year at 55 there is no way I could do this at 68 not on a medical ward. Yes I will miss my salary but it is not worth the stress and the possible effect it will have on my health.

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