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Practice staff to join strike after Unison votes for industrial action

A large-scale strike among NHS workers and GP practice staff looks set to go ahead after the trade union Unison voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action over the Government’s public sector pension reforms.

With a surprisingly low turnout of just 29%, the ballot saw 245,358 vote in favour of strike action, and 70,253 against. Some 82% of healthcare workers within the union backed strike action.

Unison, which represents practice nurses, administrators and cleaners among others, is the first of the trade unions to get a result from ballots over a strike on 30 November which could involve as many as three million public sector workers.

The unions intend to go ahead with the strike action despite a Government concession yesterday which offered GPs, NHS staff and other public sector employees an extra 8% on post-retirement pay-outs and promised to protect existing benefits for anyone within 10 years of retirement.

The general secretary of Unison 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.’

He added: ‘We support the TUC day of action on 30 November, but will be negotiating right up to then and beyond to get a fair deal for our members.’

Recently Pulse reported that NHS managers could task GPs with ‘mitigating disruption’ to practice services if thousands of practice staff opt to join November’s day of action.

The BMA urged GPs to contact PCOs ‘well in advance’ of the strike to protect themselves from any action, and get clarity on what level of service they will be expected to provide if practice nurses and reception staff go on strike. 

Over 8,000 practice nurses and reception staff are set to be balloted by Unison, Unite and GMB in total. The BMA guidance confirmed GPs are entitled to withhold pay from staff for the period they go on strike but warned that practices could fall foul of union law if they draft in agency cover for striking employees.