Up to 100,000 workers across the NHS were expected to take part in strike action today in protest at the government’s controversial pension refoms.
Members of the Unite union are joining workers from across the public sector in a day of action against planned changes to pensions, which will see staff work longer and contribute more.
The union, whose members voted by 94 to 6 per cent to reject the final pension offer from the government, said all parts of the NHS will be affected by its action.
It is staging 60 events, demonstrations and rallies across the country. However, the union has pledged patient safety will not be put at risk during the industrial action.
In total as many as 400,000 public sector staff are expected to strike today with off-duty police officers due to rally in central London against cuts to police forces.
Unite claims patients could be put at risk by forcing paramedics and nurses to work until they are 65 or longer, under the proposals. It has also claimed members will have to pay an extra £30 a month in contributions following a two-year pay freeze for most staff.
Unite’s assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said the action follows the anger displayed during the “day of action” organised by the Trades Union Congress and held on 30 November last year.
She said: “This anger has been increased by the government’s hardline insistence that public sector employees work longer, pay more and receive less when they eventually retire.
“Our members believe the government is attacking their pensions as a means of helping reduce the budget deficit which has been caused by a greedy city elite that has brought the economy to its knees.
“We call on the coalition to heed the lessons of last week’s local elections and enter into genuine and meaningful talks with the unions.”
The British Medical Association begins a ballot of its members on taking possible industrial action next week.
Earlier this month the Royal College of Midwives board accepted the government’s final offer, following a consultation of its members. The college said 72 per cent of respondents were in favour of accepting the offer while 28 per cent per cent wanted to reject it. Turnout was 20 per cent.
However, both the Royal College of nursing and Unison have stalled on making a formal decision on whether to accept or reject the proposals, following poor turnouts in their respective ballots.