UNISON members need to know what they are going on strike against in order to make sure there is a high turnout in a ballot and a resounding “yes” vote – at the moment we do not know enough about the details to give them the answers. Strikes are not built in a few weeks and it takes 17 weeks to prepare for a ballot – it is possible that we will be balloting over a million members, so we need to get it right.

What is the point of negotiating with the government – they want to attack our pensions?
It is our obligation to inform the government of where they are going wrong and to consider all of their proposals in depth. Like many issues this government has not thought through the full implications of their ideas. We need to make sure that there is a good quality pension system for all public sector workers and that means we have to talk to government.

What is the government’s timetable for pension contribution increases?First they want to increase scheme member contributions in April 2012; this means they need to lay the legislation to do so no later than January 2012. We expect the legislation to be laid in 2011. There has to be a 12-week consultation period before they can do that. So that is why the campaign and any plans for industrial action must be considered against this timeline.


How will the pension increases be negotiated?
We are not negotiating the increases as a point of principle. No TUC affiliated union is. Once the negotiations with the government end in June each government department will come forward with its proposals.


How will the changes to my pension scheme and benefits be negotiated?
These discussions will take place in the government departments after June. The timetable is very tough to deliver brand new schemes and implement the 27 recommendations of the Hutton Commission.

So could there be industrial action over the pension contribution increases and the new pension scheme proposals?
It is possible that the pension contribution increases and the new pension scheme proposals will be the cause of industrial action.

What is UNISON policy on these issues?
The national policy of the union is to negotiate, but to oppose detrimental changes to our members’ pension schemes and organise a ballot for industrial action if necessary to defend the current pension system.

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