UNISON announces intention to stage protests outside Stevenage’s Lister Hospital after NHS trust proposes pension opt-out deal to recruit nurses

UNISON members are protesting outside the the Lister Hospital today.

UNISON members are protesting outside the the Lister Hospital today. - Credit: Archant

Members of a public services union have said they will be outside Stevenage’s Lister Hospital from this afternoon to campaign against a deal that could see nurses offered better wages in return for opting out of pension schemes.

The East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, which runs the hospital says – like other NHS trusts in the country – it has proposed the measures to try to attract 200 nurses desperately needed to fill vacancies.

But UNISON says the offer is morally wrong, against the law and discourages staff from planning for their retirement.

An NHS trust spokesman said it is often having to rely on expensive agency staff and wants to recruit more staff nurses which it says offer a ‘demonstrably higher quality of care’.

Opting out of pensions would be one option aimed at band five and six nurses as an incentive, as the NHS trust has no other way of increasing salaries.

The union says the NHS trust is purely trying to save money and has already reported it to the NHS Pensions Board and the Pensions Regulator.

UNISON’s head of health in the East of England, Tracey Lambert, said: “This deal, which applies to newly qualified and existing staff, is clearly a cost-saving measure.

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“If offering staff more money not to join a pension scheme isn’t an inducement, then it’s difficult to see what is.

“Many NHS trusts are under huge financial pressure as a result of the squeeze on NHS funding, and have difficulties filling vacancies.

“But saving on pension costs to subsidise higher rates of pay isn’t the way forward. Every worker deserves financial security in their retirement and staff shouldn’t be encouraged to put short-term gain ahead of long-term security.”

Also today the Royal College of Nursing has written to its members warning them not to take up the offer without taking financial advice as doing so could ‘risk their financial stability in retirement’.

As of 2.30pm today there were no protestors outside the facility.