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Unions launch "historic" campaign to protect NHS pensions


Unions representing nurses and workers from every part of the health service have warned they could stage coordinated industrial action if agreement cannot be reached on the future of the NHS pension scheme.

The Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Midwives, Unison and Unite have all signed up to the unions’ Pension Campaign Group, along with the doctors’ union the British Medical Association and Managers in Partnership, which represents healthcare managers.

In a statement released following a summit attended by representatives from 13 unions yesterday the unions said they remained “committed” to the ongoing pension negotiations with the government but warned ministers not to set “unrealistic timetables or ultimatums”.

The statement continued: “One of the clear aims of the campaign group is to ensure that patient safety remains paramount. The group will look at all issues relating to the pensions negotiations, including the possibility of industrial action in the event that the talks fail to make progress.”

The government is proposing increasing NHS pension contributions by an average of 3.2% over three years, starting in 2012. Although full time staff earning less than £15,000 would not see any increase, a nurse earning between £21,176 and £26,557 would see an increase of 1.6% and someone earning between £25,557 and £48,982 would see an increase of almost 3%.

The government has set a deadline of the end of October for concluding negotiations.

Unions claim this is unrealistic and fear it indicates the government is not prepared to compromise.

They also argue it is impossible for their members to make a judgment about whether to accept the government’s proposal without knowing the outcome of a separate consultation on the retirement age and the future of final salary pension schemes which is still ongoing.

The campaign will initially focus on making the case to the public about why NHS pensions should be protected in order to increase public pressure on the government. However, behind the scenes unions will examine how patients can be protected in the event of industrial action and what the legal and regulatory issues are for staff, particularly nurses.

RCN head of employment relations Josie Irwin told Nursing Times “The campaign will be unique and historic in that all NHS trade unions are joined up behind it.

“We are committed to the negotiations as beig the best way of secrruing a good outcome for our members but patient care is at the heart of our discussions about what to do should negotiations break down.”


Readers' comments (8)

  • As I said in another post on a very similar topic ... It's about bloody time!!!! Now that the unions are finally getting off their collective arses, we need to capitalise on this and make sure that this isn't just more hot air! WE NEED TO STRIKE NOW, NOT A 'MAYBE' OR AN 'IT IS ON THE TABLE' BUT NOW!!!!! The negotiations should be over, the government have effectively said so themselves. STOP NEGOTIATING AND START FIGHTING!!!

    The pensions are only the starting point, there needs to be an ultimatum issued, 'our pensions are not getting touched. Period! And future Nurses pensions protected too!' Argument over. They have had their time for negotiation and blew it. Then we need to issue an ultimatum that any future threat to our pay, increments, pensions, working conditions or the profession in general will be met with great vengeance and furious anger! Gone are the days when Nurses bent over and took whatever we got, we are a powerful profession, and we will now use that power to better our own profession, improve healthcare provision in this country, and improve patient care. Once that is established, we should DEMAND pay that equals our status as highly qualified, highly skilled professionals and makes up for the pay cuts we have had over the past 2 years. Newly qualified band 5's should start on £24,000 - £25,000 a year and increments made appropriately for higher bands. We should DEMAND protected time within working hours for a robust, established programme of CPD delivered by the NHS. We should DEMAND a Nurse/patient ratio, equivalent to that which they already have in many American states, Australia, etc. This would instantly improve job prospects, patient care, staff morale etc and significantly decrease negative care, compo payouts etc. We should DEMAND the instant ceasing of the dismantling of the NHS by handing healthcare to private businesses via GPs, and DEMAND that Nurses run the NHS alongside Doctors and AHP's EQUALLY, without political interference. These are just a small section of the list of demands we should make, but we had better damn well make them now, otherwise we may as well just give up. This is our one shot, our time to act, so I urge all of you out there to take it, vote for strike action, turn out in our thousands and millions, let slip the dogs of war and show this government and this country that they mess with us at their bloody peril. And Carter et al, you had best start doing a hell of a lot more than just issuing press releases and fight!

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  • Despite being a Union Rep myself, I have never been big on the striking thing - rather I would do exactly what is in my contract = no more no less.

    But as a nearly 55 year old with over 30 years as an NHS nurse and for the first time ever - I would - I will - go on strike to defend my pension.

    For decades I have implemented every daft scheme subsequent governments have come up with over the years - even when I have known they were doomed to failure, I have given it my best - these governments were, after all, going to reward my loyalty to public service by ensuring I had access to a reasonable pension at the end of my career.

    Now that this is no longer the case, they can get stuffed.

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  • Anonymous | 27-Aug-2011 10:38 am

    You make a very good point. I doubt very much that any of us came into Nursing with the notion of ever going on strike.

    However, we've been pushed too far and, you are right, they can get stuffed.

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  • Why isn't this in the news? Not on TV News, and Newspapers don't seem to be interested in reporting this.

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  • Anonymous | 27-Aug-2011 10:38 am and Mags, I agree, noone WANTS to strike, but there is a big difference between WANTING to, and NEEDING to. Like you very aptly say, they can get stuffed, not just on our pensions, but every other issue as well.

    Anonymous | 27-Aug-2011 2:28 pm I suspect that it isn't in the governments interests to have this reported, and a fair amount of spin in happening. I'll bet there will be a lot more negative press about us before this is over too. It will be in the news soon enough when we strike and essentially shut down health care provision though!

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  • I am a Community Mental Health STR. My pay is appalling and the hours are long. But I love my job. I would work to rule, doing only the tasks that are set out in my contract, I would take part in peaceful demonstrations and marches but I will never strike. I could not leave my clients without care. That's not why I do my job. As for my pension... The good old NHS will do what they will do! They always have done!

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  • Anonymous | 29-Aug-2011 12:40 pm why not? It is that stance (which many Nurses have I agree) which has allowed Nurses to be walked over for so long, it is that exact attitude that is enabling the poor conditions and pay that we have to put up with. It is time to change that view. You may not want to leave your patients without care, but do you really think the powers that be give a shit about your patients? Do you really think they give a damn about their care beyond using it as emotional blackmail to control our profession? Here's a news bulletin for you, PATIENT CARE IS ALREADY WOEFULLY POOR! If you care so much about the care our patients receive, why not strike to improve that care? Or do you really believe is that stick your head in the sand attitude doing them, or us, any good at all?

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  • Anonymous 29-Aug-2011 12.40pm

    With the greatest respect working in the community are you seeing the cutbacks we are seeing on the wards. The latest with our trust to save money they are going to try and change our shift pattern. We will have to work shifts slightly shorter by aprox 3hrs 45min per week and make up the time by working an extra shift per fortnight. This is now in a 90 day consultation process. There is no longer consideration for staff trying to maintain a work/family balance. In fact welfare of staff is not high on their agenda. We should be lucky to have a job!

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