Unite's 100,000 NHS workers reject final pensions offer

Public sector union Unite, which represents 100,000 NHS workers, has rejected the government's final offer for the NHS pension scheme.

The Unite health sector national industrial committee (HSNIC) has rejected the Heads of Agreement document which sets out the government’s latest proposal for the NHS pension scheme.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: ‘Our NHS executive unanimously rejects the government’s pernicious attempts to make hard working and dedicated NHS staff pay more, work longer and get less when they retire.

‘Unite believes it is important to continue a campaign to maintain a fair and equitable system of public sector pensions and calls on ministers to enter into real, genuine and meaningful negotiations on the future of NHS pensions and public sector pensions.’

The union laid out its three main concerns for the proposed pension reforms:

  • Increased contributions for most members – Unite said that a high proportion of NHS staff would see their pension contributions jump from the current 6.5% to 9.3% by 2014/15. Other staff will see their contributions leap by nearly 50%, with some paying 14.5% of their salary into their pension, the union warned.
  • Increased retirement age – the union challenged government plans to link the NHS retirement age to the state pension age, which is set to rise to 66 by 2020. Unite warned that changes could ‘leave paramedics and nurses doing heavy lifting into their late 60s’.
  • Accrual rate – Unite argued that the proposed accrual rate for NHS staff is worse than the planned rates for other public sector schemes. ‘Because this will be based on career average earnings, it will hit women who had taken career breaks to raise their children hardest,’ the union said.

The Unite HSNIC is due to meet again on 11 January to formulate future strategy.

The BMA is currently surveying all members to establish whether they will accept or reject the government’s proposals.

Members who choose to reject the scheme are asked what form of action they would be prepared to take, including industrial action.

BMA Council will meet on 18 January to decide on the union's next steps.

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