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Is there much public sympathy for doctors' pension dispute?

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Zebra57
912868.  Wed May 30, 2012 6:09 pm Reply with quote

The decision to take industrial action by doctors over pensions has caused a great deal of public debate in the UK. Do you think that their action is justified?

 
CB27
912884.  Wed May 30, 2012 11:16 pm Reply with quote

I think we know who supports the unions and who doesn't :)

Personally, I find it very telling that this is the first such action in decades from this union, and they are not the only "quiet" union to have considered such action recently, so it's not about militant unions simply reacting to a non Labour Government, it shows there is serious dissent and disagreement.

For me, there are simple mathematics involved here. The scheme currently has a massive surplus, so does not contribute to the deficit in any way. The only way this surplus will turn into a deficit in the short term is if the NHS was scaled back and hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost, thus reducing contributions. There have been quite a few jobs lost in the NHS, but these are mostly people on lower pay, so it hasn't affected the contributions much.

If the contract is redrawn in such a drastic way as proposed, there is a real danger that many people will leave the scheme as it won't be seen as useful, thus reducing contributions, so it's in the interests of the Government that the pension scheme is still seen as useful to NHS staff, especially junior doctors (they'll be contributing the longest). Of those balloted, 79% of GPs and 84% of hospital consultants voted for action, but a massive 92% of junior doctors voted for action, and that should make the Government consider it's options.

 
djgordy
912887.  Thu May 31, 2012 12:22 am Reply with quote

CB27 wrote:
I think we know who supports the unions and who doesn't :)


JUst because one "supports the unions" doesn't mean that one agrees with every action they take.

 
CB27
912890.  Thu May 31, 2012 1:00 am Reply with quote

I think a humour prescription is called for Doctor... :)

 
barbados
912892.  Thu May 31, 2012 1:28 am Reply with quote

As I see it, or rather heard it on the radio, there seems to be some disquiet among the BMA membership over the issue that the agreement that was made 4 years ago requiring some adjustment to bring it into line with other similar schemes that have been required to change from what was initially laid out.

The spokesman fro the BMA on the radio yesterday had one argument, and that is the scheme has a surplus, so should therefore not be subject to the changes. The reason for the dispute was given as the government are refusing to sit down at the negotiating table to try to resolve this, even though - according to the spokesman -they have been in constant discussion with the government?

The predominant objection that came from the open discussion from the doctors that called in subsequently was that they didn't want to work until they were 68, well I don't really want to work until I'm 46 given the choice, but considering the alternative I'll just have to soldier on.

I don't really go along with the claim that the scheme pays money to the treasury, because - and Neo might be the one to confirm this - but a pension fund keeps any surplus to reinvest in the lean times, it doesn't just give it away to the treasury to help the country out (The fireservice might do that because their pension scheme is a proper final salary system, in that if you retire you remain in service and receive full pay, you just dont work iirc) so what is the big deal about there being a surplus in the scheme?

 
suze
913010.  Thu May 31, 2012 11:16 am Reply with quote

barbados wrote:
The spokesman from the BMA on the radio yesterday had one argument, and that is the scheme has a surplus, so should therefore not be subject to the changes.


This argument is in fact a spectacularly poor one, because it's not really true. The NHS Pension Scheme is unfunded - in principle, the contributions paid into it go to the government, and the government pays the pensions. There is no fund, so it is not in either surplus or deficit.

In practice it doesn't work quite like that - the scheme holds on to the money paid in and uses it to pay the pensions. But at the end of each financial year a set of accounts is produced, and a transfer is made one way or the other between the NHS and the Treasury so's to balance the books. (The details of that are published; I'm sure you could find them if you wanted to.)

Most of the large public sector pension schemes work in this way; as well as the NHS, the Civil Service, Teachers, and Armed Forces pension schemes are unfunded. (The Local Government and Universities schemes are funded, for historical reasons.)

When Mr BMA Man says that the scheme is in surplus, all he actually means is that over the last few years that transfer has been from the NHS. Very simply, that's because the NHS currently has more employees than it has pensioners.

So the pension scheme is currently cash rich, but demographics mean that it won't be so for ever. If it were valued using the mathematical models which are used to value funded pension schemes, it would actually have a bloody great deficit. (The Government Actuary writes a report to say so every three years. He has to make a shedload of assumptions to come to that conclusion, and it's not worth very much more than the paper on which it's written. Furthermore, it's not his job to say what needs done about the situation, as it would be re a funded pension scheme. He's a civil servant, and that bit is for the politicians.)


That's not to say that I reject Mr BMA's position, just his reasoning. When it comes down to it, the NHS is in the same position as the Teachers here - pensions are becoming increasingly expensive to provide, which means that someone has to pay more for them.

My union takes the same view as the BMA here - that someone should be the taxpayer. The government believes that it should - in part - be the person who will in due course receive the pension.

Which is right? There's only one way to find out ...

 
barbados
913015.  Thu May 31, 2012 11:50 am Reply with quote

There is no need for a "FIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT" really is there. All you need to do is when you are wondering if it is right and correct that the taxpayer meet the additional requirements of your pension, would you like to contribute additionally to the pension of someone who works for BP?

If the answer is yes, then why aren't you. If it is no, then why do you think it is right for someone that works for BP to contribute to yours?

 
suze
913024.  Thu May 31, 2012 12:16 pm Reply with quote

The unions appear intent on having that FIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT. I'll sit on the fence as to whether they are right in that or not, because I'm not entirely sure. FWIW, I voted against industrial action when my union asked me the question, although I still took it when the vote came out in favour.


barb wrote:
If it is no, then why do you think it is right for someone that works for BP to contribute to yours?


Because someone who works for BP (assuming that she is in the UK) benefits from the job that I do. She is entitled to use the facilities of the NHS, and she pays her share of the cost of that by means of taxation. She is entitled to send her children to a state sector school, and she pays her share of the cost of that by means of taxation.

A large part of that cost is wages - and pensions, when it comes down to it, are deferred wages. In the more mundane parts of the public sector, it's long been understood that the relatively generous pensions are a sort of compensation for the non-generous normal wages. Make that pension less generous, and all of a sudden you find it very difficult to hire job centre clerks, hospital porters, and all sorts of other fairly menial staff.

Now OK, that argument doesn't really work for doctors - few would seriously argue that they are poorly paid. But the NHS needs to have doctors - without them it's out of business.

What do you do when the remuneration package offered by the NHS is such that only the rubbish doctors want to work there? Who suffers when the remuneration package offered to teachers is such that only the rubbish teachers want to work in state schools?

 
barbados
913025.  Thu May 31, 2012 12:25 pm Reply with quote

suze wrote:
Because someone who works for BP (assuming that she is in the UK) benefits from the job that I do. She is entitled to use the facilities of the NHS, and she pays her share of the cost of that by means of taxation. She is entitled to send her children to a state sector school, and she pays her share of the cost of that by means of taxation.


The BP worker isn't worried about paying tax, but why should she pay more tax to support you? when without her tax input you and I don't have a job that entitles us to the pension we will eventually receive.

Like I said, her pension is being squeezed, why should yours be protected at her expense?

 
suze
913032.  Thu May 31, 2012 12:45 pm Reply with quote

Because if it isn't, I'm liable to leave and go and teach in an independent school instead. Her doctor is liable to leave and go and work in private practice.

If her child is being taught in a class of 60 because the school couldn't hire any English teachers, or if her child's English teacher is Bulgarian and has never heard of Shakespeare, I'm sure she'll be complaining about it.

If her doctor can't see her for six months because he has too many other patients on his list, or if she calls for a paramedic but he turns out not to know the difference between angina and vagina, I'm sure she'll be complaining about that.

 
Spud McLaren
913036.  Thu May 31, 2012 12:55 pm Reply with quote

Indeed. Remember the answer to the squeal about top executives' pay - "If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys"? Well...

 
barbados
913041.  Thu May 31, 2012 1:06 pm Reply with quote

And in your independant school, what do you do in the winter when her employer has to bump the prices up so high to pay her wages so that she can afford to pay for the independent and private healthcare?

You see, no one person is more important than another in a society, they all have their part to play and as soon as you take one of the teeth out of the cog things start falling apart.

As one of those woolly lefty sorts I would have been a little more considerate ;)

But in all seriousness for me there isn't even anything worth considering, I really don't think it is fair for me to contribute to someone else's pension fund, so I wouldn't think to ask someone else - who already does contribute, to contribute more. So I have to contribute more to my pension, if I want to have a worthy fund then so be it. If I have to work till I'm 68 - I don't like it but I can't afford otherwise, so be it.

 
suze
913046.  Thu May 31, 2012 1:26 pm Reply with quote

barbados wrote:
As one of those woolly lefty sorts I would have been a little more considerate ;)


And actually, I would; there was a certain amount of advocatus diaboli to my last post.

I don't consider myself woefully badly paid; after all, I voted against strike action and will do so again should there be another ballot.

Neither do I consider myself especially well paid; I certainly don't rule out that my next job will be in an independent school. I could probably earn about 8,000 more in an independent school, and in almost all of them I'd get free lunches as well. (What's more, the pension scheme is the same one. This is a special concession; a doctor working solely for BUPA cannot be in the NHS scheme, but teachers in independent schools can be in the Teachers Pension Scheme.)

 
Sparkyweasel
913081.  Thu May 31, 2012 8:07 pm Reply with quote

suze wrote:
or if her child's English teacher is Bulgarian and has never heard of Shakespeare, I'm sure she'll be complaining about it.


As an English boy, in an English school, I had an English teacher (or 'teacher of English' perhaps) who was German. He was very good, although he had heard of Shakespeare. :)

My teacher of German was English, and useless.

 
djgordy
913093.  Fri Jun 01, 2012 12:47 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:
in almost all of them I'd get free lunches as well.


So there is such a thing as a free lunch.

suze wrote:
turns out not to know the difference between angina and vagina,


That can be embarassing. I told my ex-girlf I wanted to have sex with her. She said "not now, I've got acute angina. I said "why do you think I want to have sex with you?".

 

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