UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Health workers gear up to defend pensions

UNISON delegates to health conference in Liverpool yesterday voted unanimously to build capacity for taking strike action to defend the NHS Pension scheme up to and including a ballot for lawful national industrial action should the Government come after our pensions, writes Linda Hobson.

The message within the motion carried on from Dave Prentis' powerful address to the rally outside conference on Tuesday afternoon.

The composited Emergency Motion number 3 entitled “Hutton Report on NHS Pensions - Pay More, Work Longer, Get Less” was submitted by the Service Group Executive as well as just about every regional health committee. It outlined the attacks on the NHS Pension Scheme that have come from the Hutton Report and this Tory-led Government. These attacks include:

Pension schemes will now use the CPI rather than RPI which even statisticians do not believe fully reflects the inflation increases

Part of the funding cut to the NHS is now to be paid by increasing the level of contributions made by members of the NHSPS. Contributions are set to rise by between 50 – 100% for members of the scheme.

Threats to end 'Fair Deal', undermining of the NHS Passport meaning that staff transferred to private contractors would no longer be offered a comparable pension scheme

Ending Final Salary Schemes in favour of Career Average Schemes

Aligning the NHSPS retirement age to the State Pension Age

Uncertainty for those staff who have Mental Health Officer status

Within the NHS the pension scheme has already gone through a sustainability exercise and some members have made their decision based on the NHS Pensions Choice exercise.

The motion called on the SGE to:

- campaign to defend the NHSPS including the retention of the final salary scheme, RPI uprating, current retirement age and Fair Deal for existing and new staff;

- liaise with and assisting regions/branches in building capacity for taking action to defend the NHSPS up to and including ballot for lawful industrial action;

- work with and campaign alongside other NHS trade unions;

- raise the issue of pensions choice at the NHSPS Governance Group;

- fully support UNISON's 'Protect our Pensions' Campaign;

- encourage branches to appoint pensions champions and contacts;

- seek the re-opening of the 'Choices' exercise in the event of significantly reformed new scheme being imposed by the Government.

There were a multitude of speakers to the motion including nurse James Anthony who stated that although nurses and other staff within the NHS may be reluctant to take industrial action for fear of putting patients at risk this motion sets to allay those fears in ensuring we build for any action we as members decide to take.

It is clear that UNISON members are getting angry. The deficit was caused by the bankers and the speculators not NHS workers. Our members are being forced to plug the debt by working longer, paying more and getting less whilst the bankers carry on as usual.

The motion seeks to ensure there is a pension champion in all branches, please see link below for more details.

Linda Hobson