Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union, Unite, has promised a day of industrial action on May 10 in protest at the government’s planned pension reforms.
Around 100,000 of its members work for the NHS, and they voted by a margin of over 94% to reject the pensions deal.
The day of action follows the Queen’s speech on May 9, which is expected to include a bill to enforce public sector pension changes, including the need for larger contributions from 6.5% to 9.3% over the next three years, and an extension of the retirement age to 68.
Unite says that its NHS members, who include health visitors, pharmacists and paramedics, will have to stump up, on average, an extra £30 a month to pay for their pensions against a backdrop of pay freezes and the prospect of regional pay bands.
Unite is likely to be joined by other public sector unions on the day, as the Public and Commercial Services Union PCS met yesterday to discuss its plans for further industrial action over the pension proposals.
Unite national officer for health, Rachael Maskell, claimed the government was “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.”
She added: “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 May 10.”
Responding to Unite's announcement, Dean Royles, director of the NHS Employers organisation, said: "I know staff feel anxious about changes to pensions but announcements of industrial action will be distressing for patients and confusing for staff.”
He said that work was ongoing to help staff understand what the changes meant for them personally, and added: "After months of debate we owe it to staff to give them a period of reflection, not provoke them into action that will affect the patients they serve every day.”