Unison members vote to strike

 

The Government was tonight facing the biggest outbreak of industrial unrest since the 1979 Winter of Discontent after members of the largest public sector union voted in favour of strikes in the bitter row over pensions.

Unison said its members, ranging from school dinner ladies and refuse collectors to social workers and NHS staff, backed a campaign of industrial action by 245,358 votes to 70,253, in a 29% turnout.

The union is now set to strike on November 30, when teachers, civil servants and other public sector workers will also be staging a walkout in protest at the Government's plans to increase pension contributions.

Over 220,000 teachers belonging to the NASUWT will start voting tomorrow on industrial action, while other unions will announce the result of their ballots in the coming weeks.

The Government said Unison's voting figures showed there was "extremely limited support" for strikes, adding that the NHS had contingency plans in place to ensure quality of patient care was not compromised.

Downing Street said the strike vote was "disappointing, unnecessary and potentially damaging".

A No 10 spokeswoman said: "We have a good deal on the table - one that is fair and affordable - and we would urge the trade unions to reconsider and look at the deal on the table."

Unison's ballot was the biggest in union history, with 1.1 million voting papers sent to its members, including nurses, teaching assistants, social workers, care assistants, paramedics, police staff, school dinner ladies, probation officers, cleaners and other public sector employees.

General secretary Dave Prentis said: "The decisive 'yes' vote in the ballot reflects the deep concern that our members have over Government ministers' proposals for their pensions.

"Yesterday's statement in Parliament was a marked improvement on earlier proposals. But it is important to understand that the statement has to be translated into offers in the scheme specific talks.

"We still have had no offer in those negotiations, where such an offer can legitimately be made. We support the TUC day of action on November 30, but will be negotiating right up to then and beyond to get a fair deal for our members."

Unison said its members in local government voted by 171,428 in favour of strikes, with 54,500 against, in a turnout of 30%, while NHS workers backed action by 73,930 to 15,753 in a 25% turnout.

Union officials speculated that between two and three million public sector workers could be on strike on November 30, making it the biggest day of industrial action since the Winter of Discontent in 1979 and even rivalling the 1926 General strike.

Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said: "We listened to the concerns of public sector workers about their pensions and yesterday responded with a new generous settlement which is beyond the dreams of most private employees. I urge the trade unions to devote their energy to reaching agreement and not to unnecessary and damaging strike action.

"Today's Unison ballot received a very low turnout - with less than a third of their members even voting - which shows there is extremely limited support for the kind of strike action their union leaders want.

"But it is extremely disappointing that some union members are still planning to lose a day's pay and go on strike.

"I appeal to them to visit the Treasury website and read about the generous offer we have made before they take to the streets.

"These new generous protections represent a very big move. They include a more generous 'accrual rate' and protections for anyone within 10 years of their pension age.

"The settlement will see public service workers getting a guaranteed benefit in retirement, not subject to market fluctuations or fees - something which has all but been eliminated elsewhere.

"It is now time for the unions to respond in a responsible manner. The new deal is conditional on agreement being reached in scheme by scheme talks with the unions."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "We urge all NHS workers to think carefully about the effect of any action they may be considering on patients. Pensions are important to everyone - but patients should come first."

Dean Royles, director of the NHS Employers organisation, said: "This 'yes' vote is disappointing for the NHS but the majority of staff did not vote.

"NHS staff are passionate about the care of patients and are reluctant to withdraw their labour.

"This is reflected in the low number of NHS staff turning out.

"If on this turnout, the unions did decide to press ahead, that would cause delays in treatment and distress to patients.

"I would urge all sides to keep on talking and we will play our part in that.

"It is premature to consider industrial action before discussions have concluded, particularly with a revised offer newly on the table."

Neil Carberry, the CBI's director for employment, said: "For all of Unison's rhetoric about this being the biggest ballot in their history, less than a third of their members bothered to vote.

"It is disappointing that the public and businesses are now faced with the unnecessary disruption of a strike which is going ahead when just 22% of the balloted workforce supported it."

Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, said: "Yesterday's offer from the Government was designed to avert strikes, but just one day later, it looks as though this bribe has failed.

"The unions have the Government over a barrel. Once you start offering concessions, when do you stop?

"The original reform proposals were the bare minimum needed to put public sector pensions on a sustainable footing.

"Yesterday's more generous offer was a bad idea and should now be taken off the table."

PA

Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
Life & Style
life
Arts & Entertainment
Back in the suit: There are only so many variations you can spin on the lives or adventures of Peter Parker
filmReview: Almost every sequence and set-up in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 seems familiar from some earlier superhero film
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones
tv
Life & Style
Father and son: Michael Williams with son Edmund
lifeAs his son’s bar mitzvah approaches, CofE-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys he’s experienced in learning about his family’s other faith
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
musicJethro Tull frontman leads ‘prog rock’ revival
Sport
Gareth Bale dribbled from inside his own half and finished calmly late in the final to hand Real a 2-1 win at the Mestalla in Valencia
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
comedy... writes Jenny Collier, the comedian whose recent show was cancelled because there were 'too many women' on the bill
News
House proud: keeping up with the Joneses now extends to children's playhouses
newsLuxury playhouses now on the market for as much as £800
News
news
Life & Style
Stir it up: the writer gets a lichen masterclass from executive chef Vivek Singh of the Cinnamon restaurants
food + drinkLichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines
Extras
indybest
Arts & Entertainment
Ken Loach (left) and Mike Leigh who will be going head to head for one of cinema's most coveted prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival
filmKen Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
News
The academic, Annamaria Testa, has set out on her website a list of 300 English words that she says Italians ought to stop using
newsAcademic speaks out against 'Italianglo' - the use of English words in Italian language
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit