BMA Scotland to re-enter pension talks

The Scottish government is to reopen talks on the NHS pension scheme with trade unions including the BMA, but the union has reiterated that a disputed offer to its own staff is 'final'.

The BMA and other health unions will enter discussions with the Scottish government on 15 May to discuss how they can protect NHS workers in Scotland from public sector pension reforms imposed by the UK government.

The BMA is due to ballot members across the UK on industrial action over pensions from 15-29 May and has said the ballot will go ahead unless the government reopens meaningful talks on pensions.

BMA Scotland has welcomed the talks, but said they were unlikely to affect its plans to take part in the UK-wide ballot.

A spokeswoman for BMA Scotland said: ‘The BMA will continue to work constructively with the Scottish government and other trade unions to see if there are Scottish-specific pension solutions.

‘However, there are clearly legislative and financial constraints around these negotiations and our members are angry with the increases to employee contributions already implemented in Scotland.

'At the present time, therefore, the intention is that members in Scotland will be balloted alongside their colleagues across the UK.’

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: 'We are working within the restrictions imposed by Westminister to find a Scottish solution.'

Meanwhile, BMA staff have threatened to take strike action if the union does not improve a pay offer for 2012. The BMA offered its administrative and clerical staff a pay rise of 1.5% plus an additional 0.5% for high performers only.

The offer has been rejected by staff, but the BMA has declared it a final offer, prompting a a union representing BMA staff to accuse it of double standards.

The GMB union represents around 50% of the BMA's 500 staff, and plans to ballot for strikes that could be timed to coincide with pensions strikes by the BMA.

Anna Meyer, GMB London regional organiser, criticised the BMA for refusing to negotiate with staff in light of its own battle with the government over pensions.

She said it was possible that the GMB strike could fall at the same time as the BMA’s own ballot of doctors. 'The issue is the pay offer put on the table,' she said. 'The BMA has said it is a final offer, they are not prepared to carry on negotiating. We believe it is insufficient bearing in mind inflation.

'People feel strongly that they are making the same criticism of the government over pensions but they do similar things to their own staff.'

Health union Unite, however, has cancelled plans for NHS workers to strike on 10 May in Scotland, although action will go ahead across the rest of the UK.

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