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Unison vows to fight pension cuts

  • 22 Comments

The new coalition government can expect a “period of real conflict” if planned cuts are carried out in the NHS, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis has warned.

Mr Prentis issued the threat in an interview with Nursing Times on the day health secretary Andrew Lansley said the NHS might need to save more than the current target of £20bn over three years.

Asked how Unison would work with the new administration, Mr Prentis said: “With great difficulty if they keep to the Tory agenda of making cuts to our public services.  If that’s to be the case, we’re in for a period of real conflict.”

The NHS has already made substantial efficiency savings over the past three years and the opportunity for more savings has gone, Mr Prentis said. He said a fairer tax system would be a better way to reduce the budget deficit than cutting the NHS.

The coalition government has announced an independent commission to look at public sector pensions – something Mr Prentis said was a “euphemism for saying ‘we’re going to attack the pension schemes’.”

He added: “If they come for our pensions I’ve got no doubts whatsoever that will lead to national action.”

An attack on NHS pensions would be “the final straw” for healthcare workers who were usually reluctant to strike, Mr Prentis said.

“Health workers don’t like taking industrial action, they don’t like leaving patients, it’s not part of their being.

“But on pensions I’ve got no doubt whatsoever that people feel so strongly about it…I think that would be the final straw. I do not rule out a strike for healthcare workers.”

Unison’s hardline approach is in contrast to that of the Royal College of Nursing, which last week welcomed Mr Lansley to his role. RCN director of policy development and implementation Howard Catton said: “Our starting point will absolutely be one of wanting to work with the new government.

But Mr Catton warned: “If we have evidence where [front line services care not] being protected we will be taking that immediately to the new health team.”

  • 22 Comments

Readers' comments (22)

  • Couldn`t agree more with Dave Prentis. To attack our pensions further would surely be the final straw.

    We have already put up with "effeciency savings", "service modernisation" " a new pensions scheme" and many other disguised cuts.

    It is only the thought of a decent pension that keeps many of us going I`m sure.

    By the way, when are the banks going to start repaying the monay we stumped up to save them ????

    After all, wasn`t it the banks who caused this mess in the first place???

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  • NHS workers pay considerable amounts of their salaries into their pension. The scheme is one of the only bonuses of working in the public sector. I think the government will have to brace itself for considerable unrest if they come after pensions, the only perk of the job.

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  • Many of my family and friends do not work in the public sector and have seen over the last two years 5 and 10% pay cuts just keep thier jobs and massive changes to their pension schemes, some companies even closing them. They feel strongly that we in the public sector seem so protected from the real world and are saying how much they recent the thought of tax going up over the next few years just to pay our pensions. I can see thier point of view so if we strike dont expect any support or sympathy from those out side the public sector. It may be time we to got into the real world.

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  • i knew this would happen? and can see a strike comming up get ready unison and rcn if this happens it will be all out we can only take so much

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  • people have to relies that the is no perks to any job! u have to work and have what they give u regardless of wot they said? we are just puppets nobody is safe when the goverment,managment,banks,etc say jump people do it they are scared?

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  • Having worked in both public and private sector there is no comparison to the amount of work expected in the NHS. I really believe that people start off with a vocation, which is then abused and end their career exhausted and only waiting for the pension. At least Unison shows some courage and we should fight for our pension rights to the bitter end, after all as the largest workforce we do have power if we chose to use it.

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  • Its too late already. Where have you all been recently. There is a bigger threat to pensions than government cuts. The threat comes from Foundation Trusts. This realy is privatisation by the back door. These trust have Carte Blanche when it comes to how they run their own trust. They realy have wide ranging powers to run their business (trust) how they like.They can chose to opt out completely from Whitley conditions and negotiate localy on pay. It has already happened. It is only a matter of time when one of these trusts makes a move to close the pension scheme to new employees and then to say to current employees that they need to increase their contributions or even to terminate the scheme all together. And when one trust is successful, it will open the flood gates for other trusts to follow. Wake up people, it is already too late.

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  • I'm sorry but when did the pension become a 'perk'? It's a right and we have been paying our money into it in order to pprovide a supposedly good standard of living when we retire. The fact other people didn't stand up and fight when their pensions were being attacked should not stop us fighting for ours and to protect our terms and conditions of working. If UNISON calls a strike I'll be be doing it - it's about time we nurses got militant for once instead of rolling over and being treated like rubbish. Remember the threat of a strike was enough for Maggie to cave in.

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  • As an RCN member I would hope the RCN would show some often missing spine, if UNISON take a tougher view of cuts to our pensions then i would hope an exodus of members from the RCN to UNISON

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  • RCN..tories always and forever

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