Pensions: HCSA says “no” to strike action for now…

At a meeting of its ruling council held on 21 October, the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) considered whether to hold a members’ ballot to take industrial action on 30 November over the government’s pension reforms.

It did so in the context of government proposals that will require hospital consultants to work longer before being able to access their pension, pay more in pension contributions, and receive considerably less than promised when they joined the scheme. The impact of the pension proposals will be felt by all hospital consultants with the newly appointed – and consultants of tomorrow – being the most significantly affected.

President of Council, Dr Umesh Udeshi, consultant radiologist in Worcester recognised the unfairness of what is being proposed. He reminded delegates that the damaging implications would be particularly felt by the lower paid but essential staff of the NHS whilst also having a disproportionate and damaging effect on consultants who had worked hard throughout their careers.

He commented: “The unfair pension proposals will have a negative impact for all NHS staff irrespective of salary, job, or length of service. It must be right that, as senior members of the NHS team, we do what we can to defend everyone who has invested in the NHS Pension scheme who now stand to lose a great deal if these changes go ahead.”

The HCSA Council took the view that as the association was party to the continuing discussions with Government it would not be appropriate to take industrial action on 30 November.

HCSA met with the health secretary on 18 October and continues in negotiations with government. It agreed to reconsider this option if government refused to hold meaningful negotiations around the contributions to the scheme, the pension change from final salary to career average and the unfairness of reneging on a pension package agreed only three years ago.

This is all the more unfair, as the NHS pension scheme is in surplus at present by some £2 billion per annum and the Treasury is taking this surplus and using it for general purposes, not investing it for future pensioners!

The HCSA wants to be responsible but the facts are that NHS consultants are in the middle of a three year pay freeze, already contribute a higher proportion of their salaries to their pensions than lower paid staff, and will pay higher taxes both on their incomes and their pensions when they receive them.

Consultants will be particularly disadvantaged by a career average based pension – it takes 19 years of completed service to reach the top of the salary scale, so the career average is lower than groups whose salary reaches the top of the scale much quicker.

Udeshi continued: “We are doing our fair share! It seems the government just keeps coming back for more as they know that we will not advocate any industrial action which puts our patients at risk. We are certainly not ruling out the possibility of industrial action in the future.

“It would be a tragic state of affairs if senior hospital doctors were forced down that route, but unless or until the government understands the very real damage created by these pension reforms I can see the day when doctors will indeed join their NHS colleagues of all disciplines in an unprecedented show of protest.”

Whilst not taking industrial action on 30 November, the HCSA will be organising a number of local events and will work with local trade union branches to provide effective HCSA support on this the day of protest.

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4 Responses to “Pensions: HCSA says “no” to strike action for now…”

  1. hangallpoliticians says:

    Apart from striking what can we do to “provide effective HCSA support on this the day of protest”? Provide drinks and nibbles? Give the government a deadline, then give us a strike ballot!

  2. Lisa says:

    I agree, I think this is unfair and without (in the case of the NHS) evidence that it’s necessary, besides we have just agreed changes recently that were thought to be appropriate, have things really changed that much recently? The HSCA must stand firm on this and support our colleagues in the NHS by striking with the other unions. Honestly we are so bound up with our ridiculous middle class guilt and desire not to upset people, that we will simple sell out our less fortunate colleagues with the usual lack of action.

  3. Malcolm Morrison says:

    To answer “Hangallpoliticians” (whoever that might be), there are plenty of other things doctors could do that does not involve going on strike (back in the ’70s, we all handed in our resignations – that concentrated the minds of the politicians!). But today, consultants could all refuse to attend any management meetings on 30th Nov (they could find that they had ‘urgent clinical matters to attend to’); they could put in for one day’s leave (provided they are not ‘on’ for emeregencies) and join in any marches. The fact is that most doctors are great at moaning (sorry – criticising!), but loath to take ANY action!
    Retired Orthopod

  4. joshek says:

    the gvmt knows full well that doctors whinge a lot but do nothing. why does the gvmt ignore the doctors? because it can – without any risk.

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