Unison backs strike over pension reform plan

Members of Britain's largest public-sector union yesterday voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action over planned changes to pensions.

Unison said its members, ranging from dinner ladies and refuse collectors to social workers and NHS staff, backed a campaign of industrial action by 245,358 votes to 70,253. But turnout was only 29 per cent, leading ministers to suggest that the action was not fully supported by a majority of members.

The union is now set to strike on 30 November, 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.

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

Unison's ballot was the biggest in union history, with 1.1 million voting papers sent to its members. Its general secretary Dave Prentis said: "The decisive Yes vote reflects the deep concern our members have over government proposals for their pensions."

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