By Ray Fleming

BRITAIN'S doctors have not taken action against their terms and conditions since 1975 but they may be about to consider some form of work-to-rule or other protest following yesterday's rejection by their professional body, the British Medical Association, of the government's proposals to change their pension rights, requiring them to contribute more and work longer -- the formula that has already stalled pension negotiations with almost all trade unions in health, education, local and central government services.

The BMA decision followed a survey of 46'000 doctors which showed that two-thirds are ready to consider some form of protest action if there is no positive response from the government. A meeting of the BMA's governing Council in February will consider whether a ballot of its members should be held to obtain the necessary majority for, say, work-to-rule. The chairman of the Council, Dr Hamish Meldrum, said yesterday “Doctors feel let down and betrayed. For many this is the last straw. The pension scheme was radically overhauled only four years ago.”

The coalition government's public service pension reforms are in tatters, partly because of the unfairness of the proposals and partly because of ham-fisted negotiation tactics (for instance, excluding from negotiations trade unions that do not accept in principle the government's initial proposals) by the Cabinet Office minister, Francis Maude, and the Treasury.

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