Unions condemn new pension offer for NHS staff


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The Independent Online

Ministers moved to split the union movement yesterday by announcing that more than half a million NHS workers will not need to pay more into their pensions next year, but those earning more than £26,000 will have to make up the difference.

Under the plan outlined by Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, 530,000 staff will benefit when the threshold for freezing pension contributions is raised from £15,000 to £26,557 for 2012-13. But the shortfall will be made up with increased contributions distributed among higher earners. Although the move is not directly related to the ongoing negotiations over long-term pension reform, it suggests that the Government is trying to split off unions representing predominantly low-paid workers, such as Unison, from those representing higher earners, such as the doctors' union, the BMA.

Mr Lansley said: "Public service pensions will remain among the very best available, providing a guaranteed pension level for all employees.

"We are continuing to discuss wider changes to pensions with trades unions and hope to reach an agreement by the end of the year. But we are clear that people will also keep whatever they have already earned."

Unison criticised the timing of the announcement as "unhelpful" while pensions negotiations were continuing. Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail added: "These are tawdry divide-and-rule tactics designed to set one set of dedicated, hard-working NHS workers against another. Again, the Government is attempting to mislead the workforce and the public about the true impact of their proposals."

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the BMA, said. "It is inconceivable that the Government can claim to have come up with this idea 'having listened to staff'."