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Unions issue strike warning over pension reforms


The government has been warned that implementing radical changes to public sector pensions could “light the blue touch paper” for strikes by millions of workers.

Labour peer Lord Hutton sparked anger after recommending to ministers that public sector workers should be stripped of their final salary pensions and instead have schemes linked to average earnings, while paying more and working longer.

Unions representing council workers, NHS staff, civil servants and other public sector employees reacted with fury to the report and warned of co-ordinated industrial action.

Jon Skewes of the Royal College of Midwives said members would be “appalled” by the government’s “attack” on their pensions.

“On top of pay freezes, cuts to services and threats to the NHS itself, this will be seen as a slap in the face for hard-pressed midwives and maternity support workers. They will react with anger and dismay and many may vote with their feet and leave the NHS. This will only serve to exacerbate the current and critical shortage of midwives and have a negative effect on the care women and babies receive,” he warned.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said the government was treating Lord Hutton’s report with “contempt” and had already decided to increase pension contributions.

“On top of a pay freeze, and the threat of redundancy, they now face a pensions raid. This brings the threat of industrial action closer,” he warned.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “Public sector workers are already suffering a wage freeze, job losses and high inflation. They are now desperately worried that they will no longer be able to afford their pension contributions, and will have to opt out.

“Even without any changes recommended in today’s report, public sector pensions have been reduced in value by 25% by a mix of negotiated change and the government’s arbitrary switch to the CPI measure of inflation.

“On top of this the government has announced a £2.8 billion increase in contributions and a review of the discount rate that could also increase contributions. Even without further changes public sector workers will pay much more for substantially less.”

Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: “There’s no doubt that these proposed changes are another hammer blow to the morale of dedicated nurses. NHS staff are not only facing a two pay freeze and widespread cuts to jobs and services, but now they will pay more, work longer and yet receive far less than expected in their hard-earned pensions.

“We know the strength of feeling among members and will  vigorously defend fair pensions for nurses and healthcare assistants at all times. It is our belief that the current NHS pension scheme is fit for purpose.

“There is a risk under this proposal that there may be an exodus of hard-working staff before the normal pension age is increased to 65. These departures would have a significant effect on patient services and those NHS staff left behind to deliver patient care.”


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Readers' comments (8)

  • About bloody time! Just how much crap do we have to put up with before the Unions actually get up off their overpaid arses and Do something??

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  • I agree Mike; we need to hit hard now with firm decisive industrial action and not delay a moment longer. We have been shafted for long enough.

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  • 'GPs are to debate plans for industrial action in opposition to the Government’s NHS reforms, it has been confirmed today' -Pulse
    Starting to sing from the same page perhaps?

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  • Strike action is now the only option to protect patients and staff and the NHS.

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  • And I do hope the RCN will be vigorously defending this and encouraging strike action. I for one will be cancelling my RCN subscription if they sit on the sidelines as per usuall. Nurses for years have been discouraged to take industrial action but this is our livlihoods at stake.. we come into the profession knowing that the pay is crap, the shifts long etc but we always knew we would have a good pension to fall back on.. I f that goes.. what is the incentive in becoming a nurse.. ??? It really is time to take action.. no doubt MPs wont be losing their final salary gold plated pensions!! Or Bankers!!

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  • I am sick to death of all this crap. The nursing staff trained and hca,s work damed hard for the pitence they earn. Its high time they got rid of most of the chiefs and get more indians in, thats what the nhs needs more staff on the ground, it would stop a lot of complants and give staff more time to care, which is what we go into nursing to do. We all earn our pension and more. I would love some of these peolpe to come and work a week on any ward to see what we do, then ask them again about our hard earned pension.

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  • What's happening to the increment freeze proposal, or will that become a bargaining tool?

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  • As a UK nurse now working in Australia I feel that the only way forward is for the RCN to encourage strike action. The reason that we have such good pay and conditions here in OZ are due to outspoken unions and staff who are very aware of their rights. Nurses work so hard for so many years, damage their backs, knees and necks caring for others and now we are to lose the pension we worked so hard for...its disgusting.

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