Crucial proposals affecting all NHS workers have once again appeared during the summer holidays, and once again the NHS unions have signed up to give away some of our rights, on proposals that are still only half-written.
This time it is pensions. The “final proposals” for the NHS pension scheme have appeared this month, and they spell bad news for both current and future NHS workers.
Most current health workers will be forced to pay an additional half percent of their wages into the scheme in order to safeguard our right to retire on a full pension at 60 – a flagrant breach of UNISON's policy insisting that there should be no detriment to existing NHS pension scheme members. Workers joining the new scheme will, as widely predicted, have to work until they are 65 or face a cut in their pension, a penalty for not dying soon enough.
It's no accident that an attack on our pension rights is co-inciding with a wholesale attack on the NHS itself. The Government expects that staff in fear for their jobs will be less likely to resist attacks on their pay and conditions, and reducing our pension rights is useful in softening us up for privatisation. And the pensions review has paved the way for fresh attacks on the NHS redundancy and ill-health retirement schemes, allegedly to address age discrimination, but in truth to further undermine workers' rights.
All the attacks are linked together, but unfortunately, the unions' responses seem anything but joined-up.
In all the documents produced (in 'partnership', of course, between union bureaucrats and NHS employers) there is no mention anywhere of the outcome of consultation exercise
carried out by the NHS Employers last year as part of the pension scheme
review, suggesting that the consultation didn't give the employers the
answers they wanted. But it appears that our union leaders did. UNISON's
Health Service Group Executive has decided to recommend that we all vote
in favour of the proposals.
At least UNISON members will have a vote in a national ballot between
September and November – some of the smaller health unions are
suggesting they might not bother with a ballot over the proposals.
As with Agenda for Change, the decision to recommend a yes vote was
taken before the full details of the proposals had been published.
Having made so much noise about protecting our pension rights, the NHS
unions have allowed themselves to be used by the employers in selling a
deal to members which will leave us paying more for the same, or worse,
The NHS unions have to learn a harsh lesson – saying we're against increases in the
retirement age whilst collaborating in the employers' offensive against
the pension scheme has won the unions nothing except a share of the
blame for the current proposals. Once again it is left for ordinary
health workers to force our union leaders to back up their talk with
action. If we wanted to build a campaign to defend and extend pensions,
we could do so. But we can't do that whilst giving away our own pension
* Demand a vote – all the health unions should ballot members over
* Reject the proposals – vote no to the changes!
* No detriment – no existing NHS pension scheme member should have
to pay more, retire later, or receive less than under the
* Fight for a living pension for all healthworkers – unite the
health unions with pensioners' campaigns to win a living pension
for healthworkers past, present and futur h