U.K. Doctors Vote for Strike for First Time Since 1975

U.K. doctors will stage a partial strike on June 21, the first such step since the mid-1970s, after voting for action to resist proposed changes to their pensions, the British Medical Association said.

Doctors working for the state-run National Health Service will postpone most non-essential work on June 21 and may do so for other 24-hour periods, the BMA, the doctors’ trade union, said today. About half of the 104,544 doctors eligible to vote in the ballot for action took part.

“We have consistently urged the government to reconsider,” Hamish Meldrum, the chairman of the BMA’s governing council, told reporters in London. “We would much prefer to renegotiate a fairer deal instead of having to take the industrial action.”

Doctors working for the NHS are fighting plans for them to retire at 68, in line with other workers. The BMA says their pensions are properly funded and sustainable, in contrast to others in the public sector, and that a cap on employer pension contributions agreed four years ago means taxpayers don’t have to shoulder any more of the cost of their retirement.

Dan Poulter, a doctor and lawmaker from Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party, said doctors “have taken the wrong decision.”

“Industrial action will harm patient care,” Poulter said in a statement released by the Conservatives. “The public will simply not understand why doctors have called for strike action over pensions that private-sector workers and many other frontline NHS workers can only dream of.”

The government is also facing protests from other public- sector workers over moves to make them work longer and pay more into their pension plans. It’s been in conflict with health- service staff over plans for an overhaul of the way the NHS is managed, giving more control to family doctors, that was approved by Parliament earlier this year.

Doctors last withdrew their labor in 1975, when consultants worked to rule over a contractual dispute, and junior doctors worked no more than 40 hours a week. It’s the first time doctors have been balloted on action since then.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gonzalo Vina in London at gvina@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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