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PORTSIDE  November 2011, Week 1

PORTSIDE November 2011, Week 1

Subject:

Big UK Strike Slated

From:

Portside Moderator <[log in to unmask]>

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Date:

Sat, 5 Nov 2011 12:58:25 -0400

Content-Type:

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text/plain (181 lines)

Unison Members Vote to Strike

The Independent (UK)
October 3, 2011

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/unison-members-vote-to-strike-6256601.html

The Government was tonight facing the biggest outbreak
of industrial unrest since the 1979 Winter of
Discontent after members of the largest public sector
union voted in favour of strikes in the bitter row over
pensions.

Unison said its members, ranging from school dinner
ladies and refuse collectors to social workers and NHS
staff, backed a campaign of industrial action by
245,358 votes to 70,253, in a 29% turnout.

The union is now set to strike on November 30, 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,
adding that the NHS had contingency plans in place to
ensure quality of patient care was not compromised.

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

A No 10 spokeswoman said: "We have a good deal on the
table - one that is fair and affordable - and we would
urge the trade unions to reconsider and look at the
deal on the table."

Unison's ballot was the biggest in union history, with
1.1 million voting papers sent to its members,
including nurses, teaching assistants, social workers,
care assistants, paramedics, police staff, school
dinner ladies, probation officers, cleaners and other
public sector employees.

General secretary Dave Prentis said: "The decisive
'yes' vote in the ballot reflects the deep concern that
our members have over Government ministers' proposals
for their pensions.

"Yesterday's statement in Parliament was a marked
improvement on earlier proposals. But it is important
to understand that the statement has to be translated
into offers in the scheme specific talks.

"We still have had no offer in those negotiations,
where such an offer can legitimately be made. We
support the TUC day of action on November 30, but will
be negotiating right up to then and beyond to get a
fair deal for our members."

Unison said its members in local government voted by
171,428 in favour of strikes, with 54,500 against, in a
turnout of 30%, while NHS workers backed action by
73,930 to 15,753 in a 25% turnout.

Union officials speculated that between two and three
million public sector workers could be on strike on
November 30, making it the biggest day of industrial
action since the Winter of Discontent in 1979 and even
rivalling the 1926 General strike.

Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said: "We
listened to the concerns of public sector workers about
their pensions and yesterday responded with a new
generous settlement which is beyond the dreams of most
private employees. I urge the trade unions to devote
their energy to reaching agreement and not to
unnecessary and damaging strike action.

"Today's Unison ballot received a very low turnout -
with less than a third of their members even voting -
which shows there is extremely limited support for the
kind of strike action their union leaders want.

"But it is extremely disappointing that some union
members are still planning to lose a day's pay and go
on strike.

"I appeal to them to visit the Treasury website and
read about the generous offer we have made before they
take to the streets.

"These new generous protections represent a very big
move. They include a more generous 'accrual rate' and
protections for anyone within 10 years of their pension
age.

"The settlement will see public service workers getting
a guaranteed benefit in retirement, not subject to
market fluctuations or fees - something which has all
but been eliminated elsewhere.

"It is now time for the unions to respond in a
responsible manner. The new deal is conditional on
agreement being reached in scheme by scheme talks with
the unions."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "We urge all NHS
workers to think carefully about the effect of any
action they may be considering on patients. Pensions
are important to everyone - but patients should come
first."

Dean Royles, director of the NHS Employers
organisation, said: "This 'yes' vote is disappointing
for the NHS but the majority of staff did not vote.

"NHS staff are passionate about the care of patients
and are reluctant to withdraw their labour.

"This is reflected in the low number of NHS staff
turning out.

"If on this turnout, the unions did decide to press
ahead, that would cause delays in treatment and
distress to patients.

"I would urge all sides to keep on talking and we will
play our part in that.

"It is premature to consider industrial action before
discussions have concluded, particularly with a revised
offer newly on the table."

Neil Carberry, the CBI's director for employment, said:
"For all of Unison's rhetoric about this being the
biggest ballot in their history, less than a third of
their members bothered to vote.

"It is disappointing that the public and businesses are
now faced with the unnecessary disruption of a strike
which is going ahead when just 22% of the balloted
workforce supported it."

Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of
Directors, said: "Yesterday's offer from the Government
was designed to avert strikes, but just one day later,
it looks as though this bribe has failed.

"The unions have the Government over a barrel. Once you
start offering concessions, when do you stop?

"The original reform proposals were the bare minimum
needed to put public sector pensions on a sustainable
footing.

"Yesterday's more generous offer was a bad idea and
should now be taken off the table."

___________________________________________

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on the left that will help them to interpret the world
and to change it.

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