Public sector: Million staff 'to go on strike over pensions'
Last updated at 9:06 AM on 14th June 2011
- Unison set to hold biggest ever strike ballot
- Walk outs could halt council and NHS services
- Showdown with ministers set for June 27
'Autumn of discontent': 1.2million members of Dave Prentis's Unison are set to strike over pension reforms
More than a million public sector workers could strike for weeks on end in protest at plans to slash their pensions, a union chief warned yesterday.
The leader of the largest union said it was a question of ‘when, not if’ hospital and council staff begin what he called a ‘sustained’ period of industrial action.
Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said its 1.2million members would vote on industrial action over the next few months in what he described as the biggest union ballot ever held in Britain.
It could herald an ‘autumn of discontent’ which could bring council and NHS services to a halt.
The union, which represents staff in the NHS and councils, is angry about proposed changes to gold-plated public sector pensions.
The Coalition wants to reform the schemes to bring them into line with those that normally exist in the private sector.
Under the changes, workers will pay more into the schemes and receive less in retirement.
Mr Prentis warned: ‘If we are prevented from reaching agreement we will move to a ballot in the summer or early autumn.
‘It will not be one day of action – it will be long-term action throughout our public services to prevent destruction of our pension schemes. It will be the biggest ever industrial action taken in this country.’
Describing what is to come as ‘massive industrial unrest’, he said: ‘It is very clear we are on a collision course unless the Government changes its policies.’
Mr Prentis said balloting on strike action could begin next month if the Coalition does not offer changes at a meeting on June 27.
'When, not if': A Unison strike could halt council and NHS services
Up to 750,000 teachers and civil servants are due to hold a one-day strike on June 30. Their unions will announce the results of ballots on the action today and tomorrow.
Unison is already balloting 30,000 workers for strikes in protest at spending cuts.
But Mr Prentis said longer strikes will follow in the autumn unless the pension reforms are watered down.
‘This union is on the road to industrial action,’ he said. ‘We intend to win the dispute.’
He accused ministers of trying to drive a wedge between public and private sector workers.
‘I’ve got no doubt that this is being done to get the public services in a state for wholesale privatisation, and I don’t think there are many people in the electorate who want their public services privatised,’ he said.
Gold plated: Unison members are furious about reforms to their pensions which will bring them into line with private sector offerings
Mr Prentis criticised Business Secretary Vince Cable, who last week warned unions he may be forced to restrict the right to strike if they take too much industrial action.
Last night Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said: ‘This Government’s key priority is to ensure that public service pensions remain among the very best and that is why we are engaged in serious talks with the TUC.
‘We have entered into these talks in good faith and are totally committed to them – as we believe are the union representatives taking part, including Unison.’
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The British People have no sympathy for the public service employees. We pay your pensions whilst not receiving a fraction of the amounts you receive in our own pensions. These people need to be brought back to reality. The country cannot afford to subsidise these pension schemes. All private pension schemes have accepted and dealt with changed circumstances..the public sector needs to do the same. - K W Boyle, Bath Somerset, 14/6/2011 12:13 What absolute drivel. So you pay a higher, special Private Sector rate of tax? NI? Nah, didn't think so. If everyone is so jealous of PS pensions, why don't you go and work there? Although you'd robably miss your white van too much.
- Steve, Ayrshire, 14/6/2011 13:12
Sack them all, they are a waste of space, sickies, pc brigade, ignotant and petty oh and grossly over paid and pensioned- and the higher up the ladder you go it gets worse
- winston, london, 14/6/2011 13:04
Will we really notice any difference if they go on strike? with the exception of the refuse staff - C.Cooper, London UK, 14/6/2011 12:13 It is in fact quite possible Mr/Ms Cooper - my own (and no doubt worthless) contribution to public service has been nine (9) 4-month tours in Northern Ireland, 6 months in the Falklands during the hostilities and a two year tour in Northen Ireland. During one of those tours I came home to find I didn't live there any more! Many others like me, who now work to support the forces in Bosnia, Afgahanistan and Libya can report the same. You just made it all worth while!
- Michael McDermott, Eastbourne, 14/6/2011 13:03
Saundra, Hertfordshire - If public sector pensions are unaffordable, they should stop offering them on the present terms and the situation will, over the long term, resolve itself. But those recruited on the deal that they would get x pension at time y based on z contributions have every right to demand that their public sector employers keep their side of the bargain. No employer should ever renege on its financial commitments, least of all where that employer is an arm of government. - Stu, Laholm, Sweden, 14/6/2011 11:07 You are WRONG Stu - even in the Private sector the TRUTH is that pensions are NOT part of the contract of employment. And therefore the employer can change the pension scheme- and MOST of the FTSE100 companies have SCRAPPED their final salary schemes - and not one person has won an Industrial Tribunal for such a change in terms of employment.
- Andy Stone, Hull, 14/6/2011 12:59
Let them strike. The Country will save billions in wages and can pay off the debt left by Liebore much quicker.
- Andy, Great Britain, 14/6/2011 12:57
This is EXACTLY what has been planned from the start. Nothing to do with Pension, just get rid of people, yet on the other hand they are putting up the age of retirement. Does all this make sense? then does this Goverment make sense?
- Carrotcruncher, Powys Wales, 14/6/2011 12:54
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