DOCTORS on Wearside are voting to see if they will strike for the first time in nearly 40 years.
Ballot papers were sent to 130,000 members of the British Medical Association (BMA) nationally, to see if they plan to take industrial action in a row over the Government’s controversial pension reform.
The result of the ballot is due at the end of the month and although the BMA has ruled out a complete withdrawal of labour, if they vote in favour doctors would not undertake duties that could safely be postponed.
By 2014, the BMA argues that some doctors would see deductions of 14.5 per cent for pensions from their pay, compared to 7.35 per cent from senior public sector workers who are on similar salaries and who will receive similar pensions.
The organisation said higher paid NHS staff are already paying proportionately more for their pensions and this disparity increased in April when their contributions rose. It said doctors starting out will be hardest hit having to pay double what they would have paid in lifetime pensions contributions.
The BMA says under the Government’s plans, NHS staff will be required to work until the state pension age, set to rise to 68, before they can draw a full pension, rather than 65 for those on the 2008 pension scheme.
Dr George Rae, chairman of the North East BMA, covering Wearside, said: “This ballot has been brought about because there is real anger amongst doctors in the North East about the way they feel they have been totally unfairly treated.”
He said doctors agreed substantial changes to their pension scheme in 2008, which included increases in contributions and a rise in normal pension age, but the Government seems to want to scrap this agreement and push ahead with their present pension changes, which he says are unfair and unnecessary.
Dr Rae said: “The Government must think again and re-open negotiations.”
Health Minister Simon Burns has said: “There is no justification for well-paid doctors to take industrial action. Pension reform is necessary because people are living longer, healthier lives.
“Our proposals are a fair deal for staff and taxpayers.”