BMA hails milestone in pensions' dispute as DH re-opens talks

The BMA has hailed an invitation from the DH to join other unions in making recommendations to the government on a 'fairer pension contribution structure' beyond 2015 as a milestone.

BMA: reopening of pensions talks is a 'milestone'
BMA: reopening of pensions talks is a 'milestone'

BMA chairman Dr Mark Porter made the comments after health secretary Jeremy Hunt wrote to him this month to say that the DH is bringing talks on employee pension contributions forward.

Mr Hunt said that while employee contributions will rise to an average 9.8% from 2015, the government has not made any decisions about the 'tiering arrangements' to deliver this.

Dr Porter said this signalled ‘a potential for a fairer contribution structure post-2015’ as it could open up the potential for a 'much flatter contribution structure'. The BMA has previously argued against proposals to force higher-earning NHS pension scheme members to contribute up to 14.5% in future, far above the current 8.5% top rate.

In a blog post, Dr Porter wrote: ‘This is by no means a government U-turn and there are still major problems with the plans but it is the first indication that some of our arguments are being heard.

‘So the latest response to the BMA from the health secretary, opening up the potential for a much flatter contribution structure post 2015, is a significant milestone in our campaigning.’

In the letter, Mr Hunt asked the BMA to reach a consensus with other unions and to make a recommendation to the DH, on how contributions should be tiered, through the NHS Pension Scheme Governance Group. The group, which has representatives from the BMA, other unions and DH officials, was set up in 2008 to scrutinise the implementation of the NHS pension scheme changes.

Mr Hunt said: 'We would expect these recommendations to be reached transparently, taking account of actuarial advice, and based on an agreed set of principles that is reasonable and fair to all staff.’

In his letter to the BMA, Mr Hunt said the talks were due to take place early next year but that he now expects them to begin ‘very soon’.

Employee contributions are set to go up in April 2013. A consultation was launched this week and is due to close on 12 February 2013, to decide how much the levels will rise. The government has also said contributions are due to rise in 2014.

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