Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Largest ever strike ballot launched

Printer Patrick Jajuga watches as Unison ballot papers are printed ahead of the union's strike vote

The biggest-ever union strike ballot has been launched, with more than a million public sector workers being urged to back industrial action in an increasingly bitter row with the Government over pensions.

Members of Unison, including probation officers, nurses, social workers, teaching assistants, dinner ladies and hospital cleaners, will vote over the next few weeks on whether to join a strike on November 30 which is predicted to be the biggest outbreak of industrial unrest seen in the UK.

As the timetable for Unison's ballot was revealed, the GMB union published a study showing that more than 100,000 jobs have been lost in local authorities across England since the general election, with further cuts to come.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said the ballot was about increased contributions, waiting longer to retire, and lower pensions, made worse by job losses and pay freezes.

"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," he said. 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.

"Government ministers want to save £4 billion 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."

Unison members will receive their ballot papers this week, with officials expecting a big "yes" vote when the result is announced on November 3.

A spokesman for the Communities and Local Government Department said: "The cost of providing public service pensions is rising, and reform is essential if we are to more fairly protect taxpayers. This is a consultation and as such discussions on the proposals are ongoing. Instead of embarking on entirely unnecessary industrial action, Unison should instead be engaging in discussion and representing their members' interests.

"We have made clear that those on salaries under £15,000 are unaffected by these proposals, and our proposals also make clear that those who earn less will be asked to pay in less than high-earners in the scheme."

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