By John Millington
DOCTORS across Britain will take industrial action on the 21st June for the first time in nearly 40 years, to demand decent pensions in retirement the British Medical Association announced today.
On a 50 percent turnout, a majority of BMA members covering six branches of practice, expressed a “clear majority” view that going on strike was the best course of action.
GPs, consultants, junior doctors, associate specialist, speciality doctors, public health and community health doctors said they were prepared to take part in both industrial action short of a strike and a strike, with only occupational medicine doctors voting against any action.
If the strike goes ahead, non emergency procedures will be canceled although doctors have assured the public that emergency cover will not be affected.
Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of Council at the BMA, said:
“This is not a step that doctors take lightly – this is the first industrial action doctors have taken since 1975.
“We have consistently argued that the Government should reconsider its position, and even at this stage we would much prefer to negotiate a fairer deal than to take action.
“We are not seeking preferential treatment but fair treatment.
“The government’s wholesale changes to an already reformed NHS pension scheme cannot be justified.”
The decision by BMA members breathes new life into the public sector pensions fight which last saw 400,000 workers go on strike on May 10th and once again puts pressure on the government to reopen negotiations with public sector unions.
Supportive messages were sent from within the trade union movement to the doctors.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka welcomed the decision by doctors, highlighting the importance of joint coordinated action by unions to get the government to change its course.
“We wholeheartedly welcome this decision which sends a clear message that, like other public servants, doctors do not believe their pensions should be raided to pay for an economic crisis caused by greed and recklessness in the financial sector,” he said.
“We will continue to work with our colleagues in other unions and, if the government refuses to reopen negotiations as we have requested, further co-ordinated industrial action will be necessary.”
GMB and Unison so far remain committed to the “heads of agreement” outlined by the government and have not called for any further action.
However speaking exclusively to the Dreadnaught, Unison insiders believe the doctors’ decision to take industrial action may persuade the union to change its position.
Unison National Executive member Jon Rogers said: “As a member of Unison’s National Executive I welcome the sensible decision of BMA members to resist attacks on their pensions which are an integral part of the Government’s assault on workers’ rights and public services.”
“Since Unison’s members in the health service in England and Wales also refused to accept the Government’s assault on NHS pensions in a ballot, I hope that unions can now come together to co-ordinate continued campaigning in defence of fair pension provision as part of an overal campaign of resistance to Coalition attacks.”
And Unison United Left Chair Marsha-Jane Thompson told the Dreadnaught: “It clearly demonstrates that further industrial action is feasible and desirable.”
“Unison should now seek to work with unite and the BMA to take the pensions campaign forward.”