Thursday, 31 May 2012

Doctor on Strike

The Independent gave a pithy headline to the issue of public sector pensions for Doctors today.

Lets be clear at the outset. Doctors have every right to ballot on Industrial Action and Striking and they have every right to take part in any action that is called by the union they belong to. They are already sensitive to the issue of "abandoning patients" but they are only withdrawing non-urgent care. This is a world of difference from standing outside surgery or hospitals round the brazier. This attitude is similar to how the Fire Brigades Union conducts their disputes and even they are usually replaced with Green Goddesses and the Army. I am sure that pulling in a few Army medics just in case is not beyond the wit of the government. But crucially, the lie about the unsustainability of public sector pensions have been nailed. There is a £2bn surplus in the pension scheme which is not to sneezed at.

The government were quick as always to bleat about lack of a mandate (which makes the position of many councillors elected just as dubious) and that the public would not understand their position. The government need to change the record and look into why unions that have historically been slow to anger and slow to take action have suddenly had an outbreak of militancy. The doctors taking action for the first time since 1975. Prospect and National Association of Head Teachers taking part in N30 last year to name but a few.

But I can't get over this naggy feeling about this action from the Doctors.

Reading about the strike from 1975, it appears it happened as a result of being asked to withdraw from private practise and has given the casual observer born long after the event the impression that the BMA is a deeply conservative self-interested organisation only looking out for themselves.

With the Doctors now being amongst the best paid in the public sector and having the added bonus of a pension scheme that pays anywhere from £53,000 to £63,000 per year, it is instructive that the equivalent in the private sector would require a pot of at least £1 million pounds. When I think about the average public sector pension being anywhere from £4-8,000 depending on your source, it has the unfortunately perception of being greedy rather than being a necessary course of action.

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