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'We will be vigorously defending fair pensions'


The RCN’s Janet Davies urges the government to get back to the table to discuss pensions

Last month’s Department of Health announcement of a consultation on increasing employee pension contributions in 2012-13 in England and Wales was yet another hammer blow to nurses’ morale at a time when many are deeply concerned about their financial situation.

The nursing workforce is in the middle of a two-year pay freeze, inflation is soaring and this latest announcement suggests they now face the prospect of paying more money into their pensions next year for no additional benefit.

Our members have already said they will pay the increases required by the existing scheme. It is only three years since nurses accepted fundamental changes to their pensions, including agreeing to bear any increased costs arising out of pay increases and a rise in contributions where the highest earners pay more.

“Our message to the government is that this is not a fight they need to have at this time”

These changes mean the current NHS pension scheme is fit for purpose, with no additional burden on the general taxpayer. Indeed, the scheme provides an annual surplus of around £2bn to the Treasury. And while the myth of “gold-plated public sector pensions” remains, the reality is that the average NHS pension to a woman is less than £4,000 a year.

By unilaterally announcing this consultation, the government has torn up this agreement that would have led to increasingly affordability in public sector pensions and delivered long-term savings.

The truth is that these latest proposals on increases are nothing to do with the pension scheme and everything to do with helping the Treasury to pay off deficits caused by the financial crisis. They are also the start of a process that will increase contributions even further in coming years and make nurses work until potentially the age of 68 with no additional pension benefit.

We reject the “race to the bottom” argument put forward by employers’ organisations that because private sector pension provision is poor by comparison, public sector pensions should be dragged down to the same level.

What needs to happen now is the government should complete and publish the 2008 NHS scheme valuation, get back around the table and have proper discussions on the costs of the scheme. We know the strength of feeling among our members and we will be vigorously defending fair pensions throughout the coming months.

Our message to the government is that this is not a fight they need to have at this time.

Janet Davies is director of nursing and service delivery at the Royal College of Nursing


Readers' comments (7)

  • Well, is this just another hot air suggestion from unions, April this year saw darlington pct offload 8 prisons in the north east and let the faceless management of care uk take over and what happened to our pensions Yes you know what happened, they froze them. I couldnt see anyone fighting for the 200+ nurses who lay the lives on the line in some pretty rough prisons around the northesat for next to nothing and then the pensions being frozen. If you can suggest what happens next id be grateful. if i dont hear from yourselves i will assume we have been forgoten again Regards Steve Mason

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  • And when the RCN say,

    "Our message to the government is that this is not a fight they need to have at this time."........what weapons are they going to use? Harsh words? Yet another warning "that this is not a fight they need to have", etc. etc.?

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  • Well the Government might want to avoid the fight........but the RCN can't avoid it. They have a clear a mandate from RCN Congress to defend our pensions and fight the NHS Reforms-and they are failing on both counts.

    Once the pension is removed it will be the end of the NHS as private health care will simply move in on a service with vastly reduced costs.

    I've been an active member of the RCN for 30 years.......and this is the saddest period of my membership.

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  • TG I have taken mine and returned P/T. Age has some advantages in this case, but I feel for the future of nurses pensions and the thought of working until 68 is appauling.

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  • I am in the process of taking mine and working part-time and its because of several reasons;
    !. the workload is more than doubling
    2. No real support
    3. If the Hutton report comes in I wont be able to do it until i'm of pensionable age
    4. The unions have no real pull anymore and David Cameron has already said 'If I want it to be done it will be' So I'm sorry no-one is listening.
    5. I want a life. I've put in the majority of 40 years this year into the NHS I do not want to die while i'm at work.

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  • Here's a message directly for the RCN, when are you actually going to get off your arses and actually START vigorously defending our pensions?

    We shouldn't HAVE to defend our pensions, YOU should be stating 'over our dead bodies!'

    Where is the strike action you clearly have a demand for?

    What about all the other issues? Crap pay? No increments?


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  • I have to say that i am in agreement with Mike (24 Aug 11.48pm) and several others.
    i left the Uk 7 years ago and work in Australia where I am paid a decent wage, have regular pay rises, increments and excellent work conditions. I am the equivilant of a Health Visitor here, I earn $76,500 AUD which in todays exchange is 49,000 pounds. I have an employer contributed superannuation scheme and feel valued because I am paid well.
    The reason nurses here are so well paid and have good work conditions is because they have strong and outspoken unions who stick up for them and fight.
    I think the RCN needs to be far more militant and if needs be, the time has come to strike as UK nurses have been put upon for far too long with workload, pay and now this ridiculous pensions affair.

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