It really is time public sector unions stopped taking the lazy option. And those representing the medical profession, above all, should be showing the rest of their comrades leadership – for decisions made over the nation’s healthcare are a matter of life and death.
Yet the doctors’ union is threatening to strike over the current pensions offer, while the nurses and midwives unions are both opposing the coalition’s NHS reforms. It is time to face facts. In the name of patient care and professional integrity, unions are a million miles from where they should be on both these issues.
On pensions, the status quo is not viable. These pensions are underfunded to a staggering extent. Doctors pay in only 8.5 per cent of their salary, while the cost to the taxpayer of the employers’ contribution is equivalent to more than 40 per cent. Even under the government’s current plans, doctors’ contributions will only rise to 14.5 per cent.
Someone has to pay for these pensions. It seems unions still haven’t woken up to the fact that the government has no money of its own. It is the private sector that will end up footing the bill for the shortfall in the pensions of these already very handsomely-paid doctors. More important still, the degree of underfunding is such that future generations of the private sector will also have to help pay off these obligations. At a time when private sector workers are facing tougher pension conditions, they are effectively being hit twice.
On NHS reforms the situation is just as bad. The current NHS structure is simply not delivering. International comparisons reveal that medical outcomes are dreadful, despite spending rises and the exemption of the health budget from the cuts. Structural reform is long overdue.