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Scottish doctors to vote on further pensions action

Scottish secondary care doctors will be balloted on further, escalated industrial action over pensions, that could involve a series of days of strike action with emergency cover.

The BMA council agreed today that Scotland’s hospital and public health doctors would be balloted in November if the Scottish government did not deliver a genuine alternative to the controversial NHS pension changes being pursued in the rest of the UK.

GPs in Scotland will not be balloted this time.

If doctors decided to strike, the first day of action is planned to take place on December 12, with subsequent strikes scheduled for January 8 and 17.

The UK BMA council decided in July to suspend industrial action, following the June 21 day of action, and join other health unions in talks with the government about the detail of the pension scheme changes.

Doctors leaders are also stepping up campaigning, especially against the increase in normal pension age.

UK BMA review pending

The position for the rest of the UK will be reviewed at the next BMA council meeting in November, following expressions of continuing anger about the NHS pension situation from a number of BMA representative structures.

BMA Scotland took the decision to announce the dates of the action before the ballot opens, to give NHS employers plenty of notice to fully prepare for the action. Doctors would not go to their normal places of work, and would not carry out any work except for fulfilling their emergency duties.

BMA Scottish consultants committee chair Lewis Morrison said: ‘It is disappointing that we are having to consider further, stronger industrial action on the issue of pensions, but we believe that this is the only way we can get the Scottish government to listen to us.

‘They agree that the increase in NHS staff contributions to their pensions is unjust, and describe it as a “short-term cash grab”, yet they offer no alternative.

‘They say they are negotiating with us in good faith, yet they have 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.

‘We recognise that our disagreement is with the Scottish Government, not our patients, and for that reason we are giving NHS employers very advance notice of our possible days of action.’

The Scottish government said the ballot decision was ‘disappointing’.

Separate talks

BMA Scotland and other Scottish health unions have been in separate pension talks with the Scottish government for about six months, focusing on areas for which Edinburgh has devolved authority, particularly employee contribution rates.

These discussions have so far failed to produce any alternative offer.

A Scottish government spokesperson said: ‘It is disappointing that the BMA in Scotland is balloting for further and more serious industrial action when the they are actively involved in ongoing discussions on this issue. The Scottish government has demonstrated willingness to work in partnership with NHS trade unions to find a way forward on pensions issues within the ever tighter constraints imposed on us by Westminster.’

Doctors in Scotland, along with NHS staff across the UK, agreed major changes to the NHS pension scheme in 2008 to make it fair and sustainable.

These included an increase in employee contributions, the introduction of tiered contributions and an increase in retirement age.