UNISON, Britain's largest trade union , voted on Tuesday to give the union's negotiators the green light to continue discussions with government ministers on changes to changes to the local and NHS pension schemes.
The union represents 1.3 million primarily low-paid workers in local government and the NHS. The decision to continue negotiating with the government puts it at odds with several other unions who have flatly rejected the pensions deal on the table.
More than 250 key elected national, regional, rank and file activists met at UNISON’s headquarters to discuss the details of the proposals for the local government and health pension schemes. They agreed to the frameworks negotiators have developed with Government ministers since 30 November.
Dave Prentis, Unison General Secretary, said: “Our action on 30 November 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."
Prentis warned that industrial action is still an option. He said: “Should negotiations fail, our industrial action ballot, which remains live, gives us the option to take more strike action.”
According to Unison, negotiations on the local government scheme are due to run until April of this year.
Royal College of Nursing (RCN) announced on Tuesday that its members would be given the opportunity to vote on whether to accept or reject the government's latest proposals to NHS sector pensions.
"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.
Professor McCourt added: "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."
On Monday, Unite's national local authority committee turned down the government's proposed changes to public sector pensions on Monday, saying "genuine discussions" should be held without "arbitrary" deadlines.
Workers at consumer goods giant Unilever staged a protest on Tuesday outside the firm's offices in a worsening dispute over pensions.
The move follows a decision at the weekend to call a series of strikes at factories across the country, for up to 12 days starting on 17 January.
Allan Black, national officer of the GMB said: "Unilever need to get the message that profitable companies will not be allowed to walk away from their savings commitments to their loyal workforce."