‘No’ to pension proposals, ‘no’ to industrial action

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.

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4 Responses to “‘No’ to pension proposals, ‘no’ to industrial action”

  1. Consultantsurgeon says:

    Whilst I would not wish to see a split in the profession about the pension reforms, I would say that hospital consultants would stand to lose alot more than GPs if the reforms came into practice. This is based on the switch to CARE pensions as opposed to the current final salary pensions.

    I would think the public would sympathise more with consultants that take at least twice as long to train than GPs if we put this across more in the argument.

    Is this something the HCSA should be looking at?

  2. David Mahon says:

    I am disgusted by the stance of the HCSA over our pensions. Even the BMA have managed to mobilise over this yet the HCSA has suggested in its latest press release that “[industrial action] …will cause an interruption to the treatment of patients and may affect the care of patients… [which] …is a scenario the HCSA wants to avoid at all cost…”. Well, not at the cost of my pension nor the cost to the future of the profession (poorer doctors will be the result – I would seek an alternative career if I were a school-leaver should these changes go through).

    The BMA have delivered a strong voice with a vote of 84% amongst consultants in favour of industrial action and a vote of 73% amongst consultants in favour of a strike, with a turnout of 56% of consultants. Similar mandates have been given by other hospital doctors. This follows from an informal poll earlier in the year with a much poorer turnout.

    I do not see how the HCSA can suggest they have no mandate to ballot with regard to industrial action. Despite a very biased and strongly worded question in the poll, there was an obvious majority of 59% in favour of action. Although turnout was poor, when it comes down to it, only a majority is needed and turnout is not of legal concern – although one would expect much higher turnout for a formal ballot than one would for an informal poll, especially if the HCSA went to the lengths the BMA did to encourage members to cast a vote (phone calls, emails and text messages).

    A failure to formally consult the membership on this incredibly important issue, and to actually overrule the wishes of the membership that have been consulted informally, is an utter failure of the HCSA executive. I joined the HCSA because I became disillusioned with the BMA many years ago – I am afraid that the BMA have finally proved they have a backbone at the same time the HCSA is showing it’s lack thereof – and it’s willingness to split the profession, knowing full well that divided we could fall.

    Unless the HCSA executive does a rapid u-turn on this issue, agrees to follow the mandate it HAS been given by those that sought to exercise their voice in the informal poll, and ballots the membership formally, then I will be forced to put my money where my mouth is and rejoin the BMA. I will also, with regret, be resigning from the HCSA. I suspect that there will be many others that think the same way as I do.

    I would sincerely like to think that the HCSA will survive this betrayal of its membership in some form, as a diversity of unions is preferable, but I suspect that it will not, at least not in any meaningful form.

  3. David Leopold says:

    Nothing further is required to enable me to resign from membership.

    I know I’m not alone.

    Kind regards,

  4. Mark KM says:

    In this time of austerity this is a battle we cannot win so striking is counterproductive. Cleverer suggestions would be to withdraw from bureaucratic revalidation/appraisals or better still the pension scheme (big headache as the scheme relies on future contributions). Ultimately we need to stick together but that will never happen!

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