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Unison and GMB to continue pension talks

Pensions protest
Image caption The debate over public sector pensions led to a major strike on 30 November

Leaders of Unison, the UK's biggest public sector union, will continue negotiating over changes to the local authority and NHS pension schemes.

Its leaders have endorsed the government's proposals for more talks.

The large GMB union also said it would continue with talks about the NHS scheme and then put the result to a vote of members.

However, other unions in the NHS, civil service and education have recently rejected the planned pension changes.

The decision from Unison, which represents 1.3 million workers in local government and the NHS, also paves the way for a vote of its members after the negotiations end.

Dave Prentis, the general secretary of Unison, explained the decision.

"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," he said.

"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."

'Final straw'

The GMB warned that it was still looking for improvements in the government's plans and said further strike action was still on the cards.

Mick Coppin, chair of the GMB's NHS Committee for ancillary and support staff, said: "Our members told us that working longer and paying more to get less pensions was the final straw."

"[We will] ballot our members with the final offer, and we will be driven by their decisions."

Earlier on Tuesday, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) announced that its members would also be balloted on whether to accept or reject the government's latest proposals.

"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," said Kath McCourt, who chairs the RCN Council.

"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."

Acceptance and rejection

There has been a mix of union responses to the government's pensions offer, which was revised in November and then presented in December as the government's "final position."

The Unison and GMB decisions come the day after leaders of the large Unite trade union rejected changes to the local government pension scheme.

Meanwhile:

  • Unite members in the NHS have already rejected the government's latest plans for their pension scheme
  • The biggest civil service union, the PCS, has all along rejected proposed changes to the civil service pension scheme
  • The two biggest teaching unions, the NUT and NASUWT, last week refused to endorse the most recent pension proposals for the teachers' pension scheme

The initial version of the public sector pension changes led to a huge national one-day strike of trade union members last November.

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