UNISON, the UK’s largest union, today announced the start of the biggest ballot in UK history, in a trade dispute over government ministers’ plans to make detrimental changes to local government and NHS pensions.
The union has given the go-ahead to Electoral Reform Service to begin posting ballot papers out to 1.1 million members. The union is urging members to vote YES and join the public service strike on November 30th.
Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary, said:
“Today I have given the go-ahead for ballot papers to be sent to 1.1 million members, over government ministers’ plans to make detrimental changes to public sector pensions. I am urging UNISON members to stand up for their pension rights and vote Yes for strike action, in the biggest ballot in UK history.
“All along, we have been hoping for the best, but planning for the worst. And the worst is happening. Eight months of talks have got nowhere – government ministers are just not listening.
“We know our members will not take this decision lightly, they dedicate their entire lives to caring for other people. But they have been pushed too far.
“Government ministers want to save £4bn from public sector pensions. And they want our members to make up that money by paying more and working longer for a pension that will be worth less.
“This is not fair, and it is not necessary. Both the local government and the health scheme our members save into are cash rich and financially sound – they don’t need this drastic change. It is nothing more than a tax on public sector workers to help pay down the country’s deficit that they did nothing to cause.”
Key facts on pensions:
- Both the local government and the NHS pensions schemes were renegotiated a few years’ ago to deal with people living longer – these reforms mean the cost of pensions is already falling.
- Both the NHS and local government schemes are sustainable and affordable. They are cash rich with income far exceeding outgoings – £2bn in the case of the NHS scheme.
- The local government scheme has funds worth £140billion – making it one of the biggest institutional investors in the world, equivalent to 12% of UK GDP. It has enough money to pay all its liabilities for the next 20 years without raising a single penny.
- Public sector pensions are not gold-plated. In local government, the average pension is £4,000 pa – dropping to just £2,800 for women –less than £60 a week. And for women in the NHS it is £3,500, with an average of £7,000 – higher
because of doctors and consultants.