Strike ballot makes history for women

by - 12th November 2011, 8.30 GMT

UNISON has said its decisive “Yes” vote for strike action over detrimental changes to public sector pensions, also marks an historic moment for women.

More than 700,000 women were balloted by the union – the largest number of women covered by an industrial action ballot in UK history.

The unique ballot’s result clearly displays the depth of feeling from women – who make up the majority of public service workers – over plans to make them work longer, pay more and get less in their retirement. The union said the strength of feeling amongst its women members is hardly surprising, given that more than 3.7 million UK women could be affected by the proposed detrimental changes to public sector pensions.

Women in the public services also face heavy uncertain futures, with heavy job cuts, and pay freezes at a time of inflation – many are really struggling.

General secretary Dave Prentis said: “Our unique ballot marks an historic moment for women, who have voted decisively to strike over government ministers’ plans to drastically alter their pensions. It is hardly surprising that women have taken such a stand. More than 3.7 million UK women could be affected by the detrimental changes to public sector pensions.

“The majority of UNISON’s members work in low paid, caring roles – they do not take the decision to strike lightly – but enough is enough. Their pensions will not be high when they retire, and they feel like they’ve already paid a heavy price for the bankers’ recession.

“Our ballot for strike action was decisive, but there is still time to reach a deal. But unless government ministers get into serious talks over the improved proposals, the streets will be filled with suffragette colours of green and purple on November 30, as women take to the streets in protest over government ministers’ plans.”

Why pensions are a women’s issue 

- Historically, it is women who reach retirement age with insufficient pension savings.

- The amount people save is the single most significant factor in producing income in retirement.  A considerable number of women with children under the age of five do not work or work fewer hours.  Consequently, women suffer as they usually start saving later in life. As a general rule, every pound you put away in your 20’s is worth two in your 30’s and four in your 40’s.

-Women are the biggest group to be affected by government ministers’ plans to detrimentally change public sector pensions. More than 3.7 million women (6 in 10) could be affected by the plans to make them pay more, work longer and receive less pension in retirement.

-The average pension for a woman working in local government is just £2,800 a year and in health it’s around £3,500 a year.  Changes to the accrual rates could wipe even more off the value of pensions.