Speaking at the BMA Northern Ireland joint divisional meeting on pensions in Templepatrick last week, Northern Ireland GPC chairman Dr Tom Black spoke out against the English government's proposed pension reforms.
Northern Ireland representative on the BMA pensions committee Dr Peter Maguire had earlier explained that although the DH in Northern Ireland had not yet approached the BMA to enter into negotiations on pension reforms it was ‘highly likely’ that it would follow the English model.
‘Essentially it’s a very illustrative and frightening attack on our pensions,’ Dr Maguire said.
Explaining how the reform would affect GPs, Dr Black said it would be the younger GPs who would be hit the hardest, having to work longer and pay more.
‘The younger GPs in particularly I would expect to be up in arms,’ he said.
Dr Black criticised the government's planed pension reforms, describing them as a mechanism for taking money off GPs.
‘They’re increasing our tax, they’re decreasing our pay, they’re making us work longer; no matter what way you look at it they are taking money off us; their disturbing our terms and conditions of service.’
Dr Black told BMA members that in order to protect their ‘terms and conditions’ they would have to be prepared to 'go head to head' with the government.
He said: ‘We will have to do [the government] harm and then we will get a compromise. We won’t get back to where we were, but we will have to do them harm and we will have to find ways for doing that.’
Dr Black went on to warn doctors they would have to prepare themselves for bad publicity if they did decide to take action.
‘We will lose the media war. Let’s be very clear, the average pension within public service is probably £7,000 a year. So let's not go into this and say: 'We’re going to win the media war on this, we’re going to win the argument in the media'.
'The media has a motto, which is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Everyone here thinks we’ve been afflicted but stand outside the room and look in; we are the comfortable,’ he said.
However Dr Black told the audience that although it was not be 'pleasant' it was the job of the BMA to protect its members.
He said: ‘[after] losing the media war we try to get our position of trust back. But it’s not going to be very pleasant and we won’t come out of it looking like knights in shining armour. That’s our job, this is the BMA, and our job is to fight for the members.'