Published on Jun 22, 2012
Len McCluskey - Unite the Union general secretary, defends public sector workers in debate on Question Time.
Doctors represented by the BMA took industrial action today for the first time in almost 40 years in protest at the Government's controversial pension reforms.
Meanwhile, staff employed by the British Medical Association also went on strike in a row over pay, a day before doctors represented by the group took industrial action in a separate dispute over pensions.
Members of the GMB who work for the BMA walked out for 24 hours after rejecting a pay offer of 1.5%, with an extra 0.5% for high performers.
It was the first strike by BMA staff in the 180 years the organisation has been in existence, said the GMB.
Picket lines setup outside BMA offices across the UK, including London, Belfast, Edinburgh, Leeds and Cardiff.
Anna Meyer of the GMB said: "We are very disappointed that there has been no response to our calls for more talks and for an improved offer. GMB members are striking reluctantly. The offer is well below inflation and the BMA can well afford to make an offer in line with inflation.
"What GMB members find difficult to accept is that the BMA itself took industrial action today (21st June) over the Government's refusal to reopen negotiations in their dispute. The Government's austerity measures have just plunged us back into recession. Instead of paying off the deficit, it has actually increased."
BMA chief executive Tony Bourne said: "Whilst we respect the rights of staff to take action, we are disappointed by the outcome of the GMB ballot.
"We continue to believe that the pay offer made to our staff this year is a fair one given the challenging economic environment facing all employers, given the very attractive terms and conditions of employment afforded to BMA staff and given the 5% award paid to staff last year.
** on the BMA Strike Action**
About 60% of GP surgeries in Scotland have been affected to some degree by a day of industrial action being carried out by doctors.
The statistic was revealed at Holyrood by Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon
She added that 3,200 outpatient appointments and 450 inpatient and day cases had also been cancelled due to the dispute over pensions.
In response to a question by Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson MSP, Ms Sturgeon told the Holyrood chamber: "I am advised that approximately 3,200 outpatient appointments and around 450 inpatient day cases have been cancelled.
"I also understand that approximately 60% of GP practices are affected by some extent."
GP Dr Alan McDevitt, the chairman of BMA Scotland's general practitioners committee, told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme that he did not expect sympathy from the public over the value of doctor's pensions.
He explained: "This is actually about the deal that the government made with us in 2008, which made our pensions fair and affordable."
He said the pensions would have an annual surplus of at least £2bn for at least the next five years.
"So this isn't about affordability, because that was already done," he added.
"This is about the government imposing a whole raft of changes on our pensions without discussion, without being prepared to discuss any aspects of it, and just saying: 'You'll take it and that's how it's going to be'.
"And since they won't talk, we've been forced into taking industrial action."
** In England 2,700 non-emergency operations had to be cancelled and nearly 19,000 hospital appointments were put back - which in both cases amounts to a tenth of the workload.
About 2,000 GP surgeries - a quarter of the total - also took part by seeing only patients with urgent illnesses or injuries.
BMA chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum said the action should not be judged solely on the impact felt by patients - because it fell short of a full strike.
"It has never surprised me that when it came to the crunch a lot of doctors do not want to take this out on patients."
The BMA has argued the government is wrong to try to change the current arrangements because a new deal was only agreed in 2008.
It has pointed out that the current scheme is bringing in a surplus of £2bn a year and under the new plans they are being asked to contribute much more than other high earners in the public sector.
Under the plans, doctors will be asked to work for longer - until 68 - and contribute more of their pay.
** The BMA lists 475 GP practices in Wales that took part in the industrial action.
Dr Richard Lewis, Welsh secretary of the BMA, said it is difficult to assess how many doctors in Wales took part in the action, but 84% had said they were prepared to.
Said on BBC Radio Wales, doctors would be happy if there was a "level playing field" where all public sector workers who earned over £100,000 a year paid the same amount into their pension schemes.
"But doctors pay 14% whilst civil servants are paying half of that for the same pension."