Nurses and other public sector workers are set to vote on the Government’s final pension offer after leaders said no further improvement could be achieved through negotiation.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) council decided that all of its 400,000 members would now be given the chance to vote on whether to accept or reject the proposed deal, while leaders of GMB health workers asked their negotiators to continue with talks before a ballot.
Unison, the biggest union involved in the bitter dispute, said its negotiators had been given the go-ahead to continue discussions with Ministers after a meeting of activists agreed to frameworks developed during talks last year.
The moves follow rejection by leaders of Unite of the Government’s final offer on pensions, aimed at resolving the row which led to a strike by up to two million workers on November 30.
Dave Prentis, Unison’s general secretary, said: “Unison is a democratic union and in today’s consultation our elected activists from every service group in the local government pensions scheme endorsed the framework proposals we have negotiated, paving the way for more in-depth talks.
“Our health members gave their support to talks on the NHS scheme entering a final phase, due to end in late January. When we have a final offer, we will take it back to members in a full ballot.
“Our action on November 30 got ministers back to the table, since then we have made some real progress. No contribution rises in local government until 2014 will be a real boost for many families that are hard hit by the pay freeze and struggling to cope. The overwhelming majority of NHS scheme members won’t face contribution rate rises in 2012.
“We will continue to campaign to secure the best possible deal, which our members will then be consulted on. Should negotiations fail, our industrial action ballot, which remains live, gives us the option to take more strike action.”
Professor Kath McCourt, chairman of the RCN council, said: “We have recognised that there will be no further improvement in the Government’s proposals and this is the most that can be achieved through negotiation.
“Council is extremely aware of the depth of feeling from across the UK on this issue and that is why we are now asking members for their views.”
General secretary Peter Carter said: “RCN council now believes it is for our members to decide the next steps in the process. We have repeatedly pointed out that nurses are simply asking for a fair deal for the front line, as agreed in 2008.”
A statement by the GMB said: “The GMB NHS advisory bodies are extremely disappointed that despite lengthy negotiations over nine months on the future of the NHS pension scheme, significant movements have not been made.”
It added: “The GMB advisory bodies are resolved to achieve the best pension reforms for GMB members in the NHS. It is on this basis the GMB advisory bodies are advising the central executive council (CEC) to put the Government’s offer to GMB members in the NHS once the final offer has been negotiated.”