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

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

UNISON members reject changes to NHS Pension Scheme

The stance of UNISON health care members in Scotland rejecting the proposed changes to the NHS Pension Scheme has been emulated by members in the rest of the UK - following a consultative ballot of 337,000 UNISON members. A narrow 50.4% majority voted to reject the Government’s proposals on a disappointingly low 14.8% turnout: http://www.unison.org.uk/asppresspack/pressrelease_view.asp?id=2685

Although UNISON signed the heads of agreement at the beginning of the year, the health care service group executive did not recommend acceptance in the ballot.

Ballot materials stated that the proposals were the ‘best that could be achieved by negotiations’ but emphasised that they fell ‘well short of UNISON’s negotiating objectives’. Those members who voted to reject did so in the knowledge that ‘sustained industrial action’ will be necessary to secure improvements from the Government.

UNISON will now consult with other unions on the NHS Staff Council about how to take forward the dispute.

A key consideration in reigniting the industrial action campaign will be the stance of the non-TUC big battalions of the BMA and the RCN - who represent respectively doctors and (a majority of) nurses in the NHS – neither organisation has a tradition of taking industrial action. They did not take part in the 30 November strike and their continuing failure to do so will undermine the effectiveness of any future action. Next week's NHS action by Unite will be a token 12 hour stoppage with limited support outside London but it keeps industrial action on the agenda and UNISON health branches should show solidarity wherever local workplace protests are held.

Also, the low turnout is a cause for concern, particularly as UNISON facilitated on line voting in the consultative ballot - an option taken up by fewer than 3% of those balloted. There will be an understandable reluctance to call further action on the strength of this vote. Further soundings of members via branches and regions will be required to establish potential support for selective strike action (as in Scotland), all out strike action or other forms of protest action (short of strike) before the union determines the next phase of its campaign to secure improvements in the proposals which are due to be implemented between now and 2014/15 (year one having been imposed already in all parts of the UK).