Scotland's doctors to be balloted for a second time over 'unfair' pension changes

Published on Tuesday, 06 November 2012 10:45
Posted by Vicki Mitchem

Hospital doctors in Scotland will be asked whether they are willing to take part in strike action, with emergency cover, in a ballot which opens today.

The dispute is in relation to the Scottish Government's changes to the NHS pension scheme which doctors believe to be unnecessary and unfair. Should the ballot give the go-ahead for action, the first strike day would take place on 12 December 2012 with further days planned for 8 and 17 January 2013. Further days of action could follow.

Current plans to reform the NHS pension scheme would mean doctors working longer and contributing as much as 14.5% of their pay for their pensions – almost twice as much as some other public sector workers on similar pay, for similar pensions.

Although some of the reforms are being driven by the UK coalition Government, the Scottish Government does still have the ability to agree some variations in the Scottish NHS pension scheme, particularly on employee contribution levels in Scotland, but has so far showed no willingness to do so.

The Scottish Government has criticised these changes as a "short term cash grab". It has also recognised that it is wrong for the UK Government to increase significantly pension contributions "at a time when public sector workers face a pay freeze, significant increases in national insurance contributions, higher VAT and rising inflation and fuel costs". Despite these objections, however, the Scottish Government is pressing ahead with increased contributions for NHS staff in Scotland.

Separate talks have been underway between the Scottish Government, NHS employers and health unions for around six months, focusing on areas for which the Scottish Government has devolved authority. Despite frequent meetings, these discussions have failed to produce any alternative offer to that planned in England and Wales, to the frustration of the BMA and other trade unions in Scotland.

Dr Nikki Thompson, deputy chair of the BMA's Scottish Consultants Committee, said:

"This is not where we set out to be, strike action is only ever a last resort but the intransigence of this Scottish Government has left us with little option but to press ahead with a ballot for further industrial action.

"With their outspoken opposition to these plans and a commitment to negotiations, Ministers have raised the expectations of NHS staff. The Scottish Government says that it is negotiating in good faith, yet has been unable to provide clarity on the scope of these negotiations or come up with any genuine alternative to the English proposals. This is a Government that is talking up its opposition, but failing to deliver on these words.

"Doctors believe that these changes to the NHS pension scheme are unnecessary and unfair. NHS schemes were reformed just four years ago. Despite this agreement, endorsed by the Scottish Government, the planned increases to NHS staff contributions will see a 6% rise on current contributions, meaning that senior NHS staff will be paying almost double the contributions of senior civil servants, for similar pensions."

"We are not seeking special treatment, just fair treatment. The Scottish Government can avert industrial action by entering into genuine and meaningful negotiations."

Source: ©BMA

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