Unite health workers to be joined by civil servants in taking industrial action on May 10th – expected to be largest day of action since November 30th

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Members of Unite and PCS are to strike on May 10th over attacks on their pensions.

Other public sector unions are set to join them in what would be the largest industrial action since November 30th (pictured: a N30 strike placard in Sheffield), with another date proposed for the end of June.

Unite national officer for health Rachael Maskell said: “The government is picking the pockets of health workers by an average of £30-a-month in order to pay for pension changes which will see people having to work longer to get less.

“This disgraceful attack comes against a backdrop of pay freezes and the threat of regional pay in the public sector. In the face of continued attacks, health workers will be stepping up their campaign and looking to join other public sector workers in taking action on 10 May.”

PCS national executive members yesterday afternoon voted unanimously to strike.

It means the union will be involved in national industrial action across the civil service, health and education sectors; co-ordinated, targeted industrial action in employer groups and sectors; national and regional protests; and political lobbying.

Some teaching unions are also considering further industrial action and could now also join a strike on 1oth May.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The ongoing programme of industrial action with other unions we have agreed sends a clear message to government ministers that we do not accept their unnecessary plans to force public servants to pay more and work longer for less in retirement.

“The government must talk to us with the genuine aim of reaching a settlement but if it refuses, we will press ahead with strikes and protests the length and breadth of the country in the coming weeks and months. And we will continue to show that there is an alternative to this government’s cruel and unfair cuts that clearly are not working.”

The action will come a day after the Queen’s Speech, which is expected to include a Parliamentary bill forcing through public sector pension changes.

Unions say the changes will lead to health workers paying more, working longer and getting less.

Around 100,000 Unite NHS members including health visitors, pharmacists and paramedics now face, on average, an extra £30-a-month to pay for their pensions, against a background of soaring household bills.

The pension campaign comes against a backdrop of public sector pay freezes, pay cuts and the prospect of regional pay. On top of which hard-working health professionals are also facing attacks to their terms and conditions and growing job insecurity.

Unite’s health members voted by a margin of more than 94% to reject the pensions’ package. Their concerns regarding the NHS schemes centre on three areas:

•       The linking of the NHS pension age to the rising state pension age – which is set to rise to 68 and beyond. Staff in many key roles doubt their capability to maintain high quality care and patient safety at these ages.

•       Most Unite NHS members will see their pension contributions increased from 6.5 per cent to 9.3 per cent over the next three years; this coming after a two- year pay freeze and the proposed two years of a maximum one per cent increase for some staff.

•       The proposed new scheme will deliver considerably less pension when members retire, or a pension paid only for a much shorter retirement, and pensions during retirement will be further reduced due to lower consumer price index (CPI) indexation.

While several unions in health, local government and the civil service are moving towards a settlement on pensions, most teaching unions remain opposed to the current Coalition proposals.

NUT deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney said: “While the NUT will not be taking national action on the 10th May we do offer our support to those unions who are.

“We will be seeking talks with the other unions, including the other teacher unions, who have not signed up to the Government’s proposals on pensions with a view to agreeing a coordinated campaign to defend our pensions.

“Teachers are determined to continue to defend their pension for which there is no evidence to show they are either unaffordable or unsustainable.

PCS’ national executive restated its desire to meet government ministers for genuine negotiations to achieve a settlement to the long-running dispute.

The union has written to Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude requesting further negotiations but, to date, has not received a reply.

PCS has also offered to meet Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander in his Inverness constituency next week.

UNISON is currently balloting members on the Coalition’s proposed pension changes, as is the Royal College of Midwives.

GMB is to begin balloting its members next Monday (23rd April), the ballot is due to close on the 21st May.


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