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BMA claims Pensions Bill will “entrench disparities”

12 October 2012

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The government’s proposed pension reforms would “entrench disparities” across and within public sector pension schemes, new analysis by the British Medical Association (BMA) claims.
In its new analysis of the legislation, the BMA recommended the Pensions Bill is amended to remove the raising of public sector worker’s pension age and has called for a “much flatter” contribution structure in the NHS scheme, rather than the proposed ‘tiering approach’.
The BMA also renewed its criticism over the speed in which the Pensions Bill is being “pushed through” and voiced concerns at the government for “ignoring” the reforms that were already underway to the NHS pension scheme.
Anger over a uniform approach to staff contribution increases and a “lack of consideration” over the “appropriateness” of raising the public sector workers pension age to 68 – in line with the State Pension Age – also featured in the BMA’s report.
The Public Service Pensions Bill – due to have its second reading later this month – aims to bring all public sector pension schemes under a common legislative framework.
“The BMA has always accepted that the NHS pension scheme must offer a fair deal to taxpayers as well as to staff,” said Dr Mark Porter, Chair of the BMA Council.
“At a time when many NHS employees are in the third year of a pay freeze and dealing with the combined effects of major funding pressures and structural reforms, it is more important than ever that the government should accept the same.
“To a large degree public service employees are being penalised for an economic crisis not of their making.
“But beyond this fundamental unfairness, the changes will also embed unjustifiable discrepancies between and within different public sector schemes.  How can it be right that someone working for the NHS pays twice as much for their pension as a civil servant on the same salary?  And why should higher earning NHS staff pay disproportionately more for their pensions than lower paid staff when they are in a career average scheme?
“If the Government is serious about creating a coherent approach to public sector pensions, it needs to tackle this unfairness rather than entrench it.”
A parliamentary briefing also published by the BMA also points out that far from securing stability in public service pensions for a generation the Bill would give the government “extremely wide powers to make further, possibly retrospective, changes in the future”.
It is claimed doctors will pay almost twice as much in pension contributions for a similar pension as civil servants or high court judges under the pension reforms.
Furthermore, the BMA said the NHS Pension Scheme will also compare “unfavourably” with the schemes for teachers, local authority staff, police and MPs.