BMA condemns Coalition’s local pay drive

Delegates at the BMA ARM in Bournemouth
Delegates at the BMA ARM in Bournemouth

THE BMA ARM has condemned the Tory-led drive to impose local pay deals on the public sector – which would mean the end of national agreements, and decided that the ‘BMA Council should campaign to maintain national contracts’.

BMA Council Member Anna Athow, from Enfield and Haringey Division, moved motion 446 under ‘Doctors’ Pay and Contracts’.

It stated: ‘That this Meeting notes that the government seeks to impose locally determined pay on public sector workers. This Meeting believes that:

‘i) it would only be a matter of time before it is applied to doctors;

‘ii) the aim of this policy is to undermine national terms and conditions for public sector workers, including pay and pensions;

‘iii) this is part of the ongoing plan to dismantle public services and outsource them to private companies;

‘iv) it would inhibit the free movement of doctors around the country during their careers;

‘v) it would have a negative effect on the training of doctors;

‘vi) it would create recruitment problems in deprived areas;

‘vii) it would lead to wasted time and resources in negotiating local contracts;

‘viii) it would be the “final nail in the coffin” of a comprehensive NHS;

‘ix) BMA Council should campaign to maintain national contracts;

‘x) BMA Council should ballot on strike action if local negotiations on pay are imposed.’

Moving the motion she said: ‘The Tory/LibDem Coalition have declared war on the public sector.

‘The CBI have long been campaigning for a reduction to public service pensions – to make it easier to get public sector contracts.

‘Hence the Hutton Report and the current stand-off with the unions and our Day of Action.

‘But the government is now coming for National Pay. ‘Chancellor George Osborne in his March budget laid out a plan for local pay. It was floated in his autumn 2011 statement.

‘He and Andrew Lansley wrote to the NHS Pay Review Body in December, instructing it to write a report on “Market Facing Local Pay for Agenda for Change NHS Staff” and have it ready for this July – to follow the pay freeze.

‘Their argument goes that public sector pay in provincial areas is higher than private sector pay, and therefore private companies can’t compete.

‘So public sector pay should be focused in regional zones, or smaller local areas, (i.e driven down) to take account of the cost of living, unemployment rates, and private sector pay rates in these areas, and so “levelling the playing field”.

‘Medical staff have not been included so far, but clearly could be if this was imposed on nurses.

‘This would mean the end of equal pay for equal work, lower pay in areas like the North, Midlands, Wales, South West and the South Coast, and would lead to difficulty in recruiting and training staff outside of London and the South East.

‘It is about dismantling National Pay and National Bargaining.

‘The NHS was founded on National Pay and Conditions for staff, which facilitated the equitable distribution of trained staff and staff in training throughout the country.

‘Abolishing National Pay and Conditions also threatens the existence of trade unions, including this one.

‘The main reason why members join the BMA is the guarantee of National Terms and Conditions. The threat is very real.

‘Sixteen Trusts in the South West have already set up a cartel to institute local pay.

‘Fifteen unions have united to fight it.

‘With the passage of the Health Act the government is using its powers to drive down pensions and pay, weaken the unions and assist private corporations to take over the health service.

‘The lesson of the passage of the Health Act, is that if you don’t organise united trade union action to stop it, it will happen.

‘There can only be one answer to oppose local pay. And that is to ballot for strike action to defeat it.’

Speaking against clause x) Dr Anne Thorpe from the Consultants Committee claimed the motion ‘is asking BMA members to strike if local pay is imposed on Agenda for Change staff. That would be illegal.’

She added that a strike ballot ‘would be costly and not a good use of BMA resources’.

Speaking for clauses iv) and v), Dr Eleanor Draeger from London said: ‘It is vital for junior doctors to have a national contract and national pay.

‘Local pay would be a disaster for junior doctors who have to move between countries three months at a time.

‘They would not be adequately supported.’

Speaking against clauses ix) and x) Mr Gordon Matthews, Buckinghamshire Division, claimed the motion ‘is too general, our problem is not the public sector in general, it’s about doctors’, and he called for a reference back. He also suggested the BMA pensions strike was not successful and got bad press.

In her advice to the meeting, Deputy Chair of Council Kate Bullen said: ‘It would be reasonable to vote on one to eight together, we’ve a few problems with nine and ten and suggest taking them as a reference back.

‘There’s a problem with what a campaign would mean. Local negotiations are not about doctors.’

The BMA Treasurer warned the meeting that it cost the BMA £90,000 to place three adverts in national papers during the pensions campaign, and a pay campaign would cost £1m and that ‘you cannot ballot for strike action for others or against government policy’.

In her right of reply, Athow said: ‘Clearly we can only ballot our own members, this is about doctors.

‘We have a government that has passed a Bill to privatise the NHS and is interested in taking away our terms and conditions.

‘This is anticipatory in the event that they do to us what they did on pensions and impose local pay on doctors.’

The Meeting voted overwhelmingly for clauses i) to viii).

‘Clauses ix) and x) required a two- thirds majority vote due to the fact they involved cost to the BMA. Representatives achieved that majority for clause ix) but clause x), calling for a strike ballot, was lost, although about half of representatives voted for it.

Earlier, conference heard Motion 330 which stated: ‘This meeting believes that i) the use of ‘Kettling’ for the containment of peaceful crowds by police at demonstrations can be dangerous and inhumane, and calls for its use to be discontinued.

‘ii) calls for strict guidelines to be drawn up for the use of Kettling in other situations.’

Mover Ms Fatima Junaid said: ‘I experienced Kettleing on three occasions.

‘I also experienced the chilling sight of narrowly avoiding riot police with shields charging at crowds.

‘We were unexpectedly crowded for up to seven hours without being allowed to use the toilets. This is unacceptable.

‘We were subjected to Kettling until midnight. It really hurt with people having trouble standing in such a tight space.

‘An anaesthetist tried to talk to the police telling them this was dangerous but they did not listen to him.

‘The whole practice is physically and medically dangerous.

‘People have had head injuries.

‘There was the case of Alfie Meadows who had his head split by riot police, and Ian Tomlinson.

‘The practice of Kettling is a threat to our right to protest.’

Medical student James Warwick spoke against Clause ii) saying, there are no situations in which Kettling should be thought correct to happen.

‘There should be no guidelines – it should not happen at all.’

Part i) of the motion was lost narrowly, with 44 % voting For, 47 % voting Against and 3% abstaining.

This was after the advice from BMA Chair Hamish Meldrum who said that the European Human Rights Council had ruled, that Kettling did not breach human rights law, as also advised by the Chair of the Ethics Committee, Dr Tony Calland.

However, the meeting did vote for Clause ii) to demand guidelines.