Public sector workers are, in some ways, at a disadvantage when it comes to industrial action. Whereas the electricians’ strike had an immediate effect on the bottom line (and succeeded in its goals), it could be argued that strikes by public sector workers have a potentially counterproductive impact: alienating the public, increasing support for the Government.
The announcement of the first industrial action by doctors in nearly 40 years has been greeted with hostility by most sections of the media. (This action will not affect treatment of emergency cases, but will delay treatment of non-urgent conditions.) Strikes don’t appeal to the right – and well paid professionals don’t hit the right buttons to get the left on side either. The Independent sneered:
Doctor, doctor: why is my GP going on strike? Because a £53,000-a-year pension deal isn’t enough…
It can certainly be argued that many doctors, particularly GPs, profited from arrangements made under Labour, and that there are more pressing causes for concern than their pensions. But if their pension fund is indeed healthy, then there does seem some ground for thinking that they are being punished for rebelling against the present Government’s planned reforms of the NHS. They have argued that they agreed to new pension conditions back in 2008 to ensure the scheme remained sustainable. Comparisons between their contributions and those of civil servants also seem relevant. The BMA sets out its position here.