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RCN threatens to ballot in January over pensions


The Royal College of Nursing council has agreed to ballot members for unprecedented industrial action in January if no further progress is made over pensions.

The college has announced that in a meeting today is council members unanimously agreed that members’ ongoing concerns over proposed pension changes “must be addressed in a credible way through continued negotiations”.

“If negotiations fail by the end of December 2011, council will authorise a ballot on industrial action at a meeting in January,” the council concluded.

Chair Kath McCourt said the council considered the “wide range of views” expressed by members on the issue, and discussed the government’s revised proposals, announced on 2 November, at length.

The existing plan envisages a switch from a final salary scheme to one based on career averages and raise the retirement age. However although ministers say the accrual rate on offer is 8% higher than initially proposed.

Professor McCourt said council members from across the UK all reported that members were “very angry about the attacks on their pensions”.

“We as nurses would not take an unprecedented step over industrial action lightly, but the feeling is such that we will now move towards a ballot of our members in the new year if negotiations fail.”

She added that the council would support the “day of action” on 30 November, which will see other public sector unions going out on strike over pensions.  

RCN general secretary Peter Carter said: “Nurses and healthcare assistants take their roles incredibly seriously, so the fact that they have asked us to prepare a ballot on industrial action shows something of the strength of feeling out there.

“NHS pensions have already been reformed, and nurses have accepted the need to pay more for their income in retirement. Nurses aren’t asking for the world, but a fair pension, as agreed in 2008, offers nurses a dignified but not lavish provision for their retirement.”

He said the RCN was committed to “see the negotiations through” but emphasised that the revised offer does not address concerns that nurses are voicing.

“When you keep asking people to work longer, pay more and still end up with less, something has to give,” he added.

However, Dr Carter has previously welcomed the 2 November offer as “certainly a step in the right direction”, and showed ministers had taken nurses’ concerns on board


Readers' comments (27)

  • Why is the RCN taking so long to ballot members? They are leaving it to Unison etc to do the initial 'dirty work' of striking first and taking a back seat. Why not ballot right now? You'd be surprised how many people have left the RCN where I work because of the strikes, people want to show their disgust with the pension changes, and yet the RCN are not doing anything right now about balloting or striking. Maybe January? That's terrible. The RCN is seen as weak and unsupportive. People have been asking what are they paying their subs for when the RCN don't do anything?

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  • The RCN tend to let other unions lead in the more contraversial issues - they have often failed to respond to the demands of their members - usually because they avoid actually asking their members what they would like them to do on their behalf !

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    They've only stated this now that they have seen which way the wind is blowing! I think the fact they have lost a lot of members to UNISON may have had something to do with it to.

    Saying that, they still haven't absolutely committed to anything, so I'll believe it when I see it.

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  • Threatens to ballot-what a joke

    Someone pushes their way into your house, picks your telly up and walks out---RCN course of action:

    "If you dont give me my telly back and leave, I'm going to have a really good think about calling the police

    Or Is the strategy to bumble about for ages and wait for people to actually retire?

    Have a really good think about this RCN because at present the only thing keeping a lot of members here is the indemnity cover-unless your a practice nurse of course!!

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  • Threaten....Just do it!

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  • The RCN is only as strong as its members. I work with lots of Unison members who are not going to strike.

    The RCN have balloted before and it has not been passed, if that happens again what message will that send? Oh yes - I remember that we care for our patients and are prepared to be walked over!! I hope the whole of the RCN back those in London trying to fight for our rights this time.

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  • Ballot away - just think everybod on this. Without striking the Govenment has given in a bit. Professionalism is the key. We have to behave professionally if we want to be treated as such. Personally I will not strike but I will fight. We can be intelligent and professional and get our own way. Nurses have such bad press already and everyone gets tainted and we have far less professionalism and respect than when I first started nursing. I can't see how striking will help. I think it will just make the Government treat us even more badly. Why not try to get our extra hours paid for? If that were highlighted more, then the government might realise that we actually are good value for money. I work at least 10 hours extra per week, (documented), not 37 1/2 and how many other nurses do the same. Probably every nurse. Agenda for change has been the beginning of our demise and did anyone baulk against that? I did but was there any fight against it?

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  • all other Unions I belief have already done that, wjat impact will they have if they do it on a separate day? Nurses should should stand together as a united front, along with other public sector workers.

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  • I agree we have to be professional but we do need to all stand together on this, and not put up with what this Government wants to with our pensions. Lets not be walked upon yet again and so yes I guess we have to take some form of stike action, otherwise will be working for even less pay, (or 'free' shifts, hours, etc as the SW Ambulance service is proposing for its staff), less annual leave and probably down banding to boot as well.

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  • tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 11-Nov-2011 8:17 am

    Exactly. When a 'rescue' operation is needed you don't sit back and wait to see what happens to the rest of the troops. You're either in or you're out. Action combined with solidarity is what is required. I would hate to be waiting on the RCN as the cavalry if i needed rescuing whilst they sat around discussing whether or not it was in 'their' best interests or not to take action. They should commit to this manoeuvre or disband in my opinion because they are letting everyone down with their dilly dallying and causing division instead of empowering their members. If you are lead by weak, indecisive leaders what confidence does that instill in its followers. The NHS and nursing needs rescuing NOW not just the pensions isn't that enough to have made decision about what to do already rather than leaving it too late with all the dithering and hand wringing.There isn't much more left to lose, without a decent pension there won't be many people still wanting to join the nursing profession because usually before you get to retire your body is wrecked anyway from all the unreasonable demands placed on it. No wonder there's not too much fight left in some of us, we're all too bloody exhausted doing the nursing.

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