With all the focus this week on the BMA pension result, the HCSA position has been overshadowed somewhat.
Our independent poll showed that HCSA members rejected the government’s proposed final agreement, and would embark on industrial action. This though was set against a turn out of just 25%. Our Executive had a lengthy and extensive discussion where strong arguments both for and against conducting an industrial action ballot were aired.
It was clear that HCSA members were angry about the government’s proposals, but it was also clear that 75% of our membership had not engaged in this process. On drilling down further into the result it was evident that around 15% of the entire HCSA membership had indicated a willingness to take industrial action, so this was not a strong enough mandate to ballot for action.
This week’s result from the BMA does not change the fact that the HCSA is opposed to these reforms, and that we want raise awareness about the impact these reforms could have. We will continue to campaign for change but not through industrial action. In effect we find ourselves in a position where we have no mandate to endorse the proposed final agreement, nor a mandate to ballot for industrial action, but do not want this issue to go forward without further comment or continuing to vocalise HCSA members’ views.
We also want to make the public aware that they too are affected by the government’s proposals to increase their state pension age. But it is the case that for industrial action to be effective, it needs to cause disruption and inconvenience, this in turn will cause an interruption to the treatment of patients and may affect the care of patients. This is a scenario the HCSA wants to avoid at all costs both for patients and the profession.
It is also the case that publicity surrounding any day of industrial action must focus solely on the trade dispute at the heart of that action, however my guess is that because of the potential risk to patients, it could be this that hits the headlines and not the merits of opposition to the pension proposals.
I have led and chaired pension negotiations for all NHS unions for the past eight years, I was involved in the central talks with the Cabinet Office and Treasury Ministers and know the government have made clear to both the TUC, who have spearheaded central talks, and to all public sector trade unions that they are not willing to re-open negotiations on pensions
So, the HCSA will continue to work closely with other health service unions as we move into the next stage of detailed negotiations. We will engage on the various reviews around extending access, and the impact of working longer, and also on the myriad of other important pension issues that will need careful and forensic consideration. We of course will want to establish how the proposed action will affect HCSA members locally, and will be issuing guidelines shortly.
We will not undermine the BMA’s action in any way and will give supportive advice to our members should there be local difficulties.