Exclusive The BMA is to gauge the views of members on what form of industrial action they are willing to take as part of a consultation over the Government’s proposed reforms to the NHS pension to start tomorrow.
Voting papers to be sent out tomorrow will offer doctors the chance to vote on whether the final pensions offer tabled by the Government late last month is acceptable or not, and will ask them what industrial action, if any, they are willing to take to defend their pensions.
BMA pensions leaders told Pulse that members will be asked about a number of forms of industrial action, including ‘strike action’, ‘limited industrial action with emergency cover’, and ‘other industrial action’.
The consultation is not an official ballot on industrial action, but is part of the BMA Council’s commitment, made in November, to give its members a vote on the Government’s final pensions offer. BMA Council said a ballot on industrial action will ‘follow the vote in the event of a rejection of the proposals’.
Dr David Bailey, vice chair of the BMA’s pensions subcommittee and a GP in Cardiff, told Pulse: ‘Our message to GPs is that the BMA is much stronger if we have an absolutely clear idea of what the membership wants. Whatever your opinion is about pensions, it is absolutely vital that you register it. We want the highest response rate we can possibly get. That gives BMA Council a clear idea on what its options are.’
‘Forms will be sent out on the 5 January. They will ask if the pensions offer is acceptable or not, and also it is going to ask about what action members are prepared to take. There will be one option on strike action, one on limited strike action with emergency cover and one on other industrial action.’
‘The vote is simply to gauge people’s views. This is not in any way shape or form a ballot on industrial action.’
Last month BMA leaders warned the Government’s final NHS pensions offer was ‘not acceptable’ to GPs, after ministers pushed ahead with a ‘Robin Hood-style’ deal which will see high earners’ pots raided to spare those earning less than £26,000.
A Pulse poll held in early November also revealed that 70% of GPs were likely to reject the Government’s pensions offer at that time. 19% said they would accept the deal and 11% were undecided.
The Pulse poll of 217 GPs revealed that in the event of a ballot, 60% said they would vote for industrial action, 27% against and 13% were undecided. Opinion differed on the form that action should take. While some backed a full strike by GPs, others suggested withdrawing from clinical commissioning groups, boycotting Choose and Book and refusing to register with the CQC.
The BMA consultation on pensions will close on 16 January. BMA Council will consider the results and whether to proceed with a ballot on industrial action at a Council meeting on the 18 January.