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Pressure mounts on BMA to ballot GPs on pensions strikes

The BMA is facing mounting pressure to ballot GPs on industrial action over pensions after fellow unions in the NHS-wide pension coalition announced strike ballots on ‘an unprecedented scale'.

At the TUC's annual conference this morning, Unison, Unite and the GMB announced they will be balloting members for strike action over the Government's proposal to increase public sector workers' pensions contributions.

All three unions are part of a 17-strong health union alliance, along with the BMA, that has already committed to co-ordinated industrial action if pension talks fail.

Addressing the conference Dave Prentis, leader of Unison, said he was giving 9,000 employers ‘formal notice' on plans for ballots on a series of one-day national strikes this autumn. Mr Prentis said the ballot was ‘unprecedented in scale' and would cover ‘over a million workers' in sectors including health, local government, schools and education.

Mr Prentis said: ‘We've been patient, we've co-operated. But there comes a time when we must say enough is enough. If we don't say it now, [the Government] will be back for more. We will engage them…but if they impose change by diktat we will take industrial action.'

‘It is the fight of our lives. I know it's an over-used cliché, but make no mistakes, this is it.'

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail told Pulse that talks with non-TUC affiliated unions, including the BMA, about co-ordinating ballots and industrial action would start this afternoon once the TUC unions decide on their course of action.

Last week Pulse revealed that the BMA was taking legal advice on options for industrial action over the Government's proposed changes to NHS pensions.

A BMA spokesperson told Pulse that a ballot on strikes would ‘first require a decision by BMA Council' - but failed to rule out the possibility of industrial action.

The spokesman said: ‘The situation hasn't changed from our point of view. Our preferred way forward is still to reach an agreement with the Government through negotiation, and industrial action is a last resort.'

‘We're in close contact with the other health unions, and as a group we'll be looking at all issues relating to the negotiations, including the possibility of industrial action in the event that talks fail to make progress. It doesn't necessarily follow that a decision to take action by another NHS union means the BMA will take the same action.'

‘Any form of legal industrial action by doctors first requires a decision by BMA Council, and then a positive result in a ballot of the profession.'