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BMA ballot could be derailed by industrial action by its own staff

Exclusive: The BMA's plans to ballot its members on industrial action over the Government's changes to doctors' pensions could be jeopordised by potential strikes by its own staff, Pulse can reveal.  

The association is set to ballot doctors from 14-29 May over potential action, with doctors due to vote on whether to provide only urgent and emergency care for a 24-hour period.

But Pulse has learnt BMA staff will be balloted over the possibility of strike or ‘work to rule' action over the BMA management's pay offer of 1.5%, with the GMB union, which represents more than half of the association's 600-strong staff, looking to coincide the possible action to clash with the BMA's own ballot.

Anna Meyer, GMB regional organiser, said that the official timetable has not yet been set out. ‘If it is possible to get that on time, we will look to go down the route of coinciding with the BMA ballot.'

Asked whether this would affect the BMA's ballot, she said: ‘Clearly there would be an issue. The BMA staff would be carrying out the balloting process for the doctors. Our consultative ballot has said it is either industrial action including strike action or short of strike action. This would also mean working to rule, which would also affect the ballot.'

The GMB requested a 5% pay rise but management originally offered 1%, later increasing this to 1.5%. However, Meyer added that many staff will not receive this increase because of restructuring.

A GMB statement said: ‘The BMA rightly expects the government to negotiate in good faith, yet it seems it doesn't wish to practice what it preaches and is treating its own staff with contempt.'

BMA chief executive, Tony Bourne said:‘We believe the 2012/13 pay offer to BMA staff (a general uplift of 1.5% plus an 0.5% performance pot) is a fair one given the challenging economic environment facing all employers, particularly following the 5% award paid last year.
‘The BMA provides secure employment and offers competitive salaries, as well as maintaining a generous pension scheme. To continue to do that and to serve our members effectively, we have to manage our costs sensibly and live within our means.  
‘It is because we value our staff that we have committed to paying an increase to salaries this year, despite the difficult economic pressures.
‘In all but one of the last seven years we have increased salaries above the going rate, and in some years, significantly above this. This year, we have also made very substantial, additional contributions to the staff pension scheme.'
But Dr Louise Irvine, a GP in Lewisham who was elected to BMA Council this week, said: ‘All working people should have a right to pay rises that at least keep up with inflation – 1.5% is not keeping up with inflation so that is in effect a wage cut.

‘Doctors have to be part of a fair society and what is fair for doctors is fair for others too. If we are concerned about doctors' pay and pensions, we should be equally concerned about the pay and pensions of other staff that work for us.'