Britain's biggest public sector union backs November walkout
Britain's biggest public sector union on Thursday voted to back a national strike on November 30 over pension reforms, despite the government offering several changes to try to avert the action.
Unison, whose members include nurses, social workers, care assistants and police staff, said 245,358 of its members voted in favour of the walkout, with 70,253 against.
"The decisive 'yes' vote in the ballot reflects the deep concern that our members have over government ministers' proposals for their pensions," said the union's general secretary, Dave Prentis.
Unison sent out 1.1 million voting papers to its members -- the biggest ballot in union history -- with a strong recommendat
ion to back the strike.
On Wednesday, ministers laid out several changes to the proposed reforms, but while Prentis said it was a "marked improvement" on earlier proposals, they did not go far enough for the union.
"We support the Trades Union Congress' day of action on November 30, but will be negotiating right up to then and beyond to get a fair deal for our members," he said.
Government minister Francis Maude said the ballot result was "extremely disappointing".
"Yesterday (we) responded with a new generous settlement which is beyond the dreams of most private employees," he said.
"I urge the trade unions to devote their energy to reaching agreement and not to unnecessary and damaging strike action."
Unions oppose moves to raise the public sector retirement age by up to six years to 66, increase employee contributions by 50 percent in some cases, and replace final salary pensions with those based on average career earnings.
Trade unions have dubbed the November strike as the biggest mobilisation of state workers for a generation.
Hundreds of thousands of public sector workers held a first day of action on June 30, forcing the closure of a third of schools in England and bringing tax offices, museums and job centres to a standstill.
© 2011 AFP