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BMA asked to act as intermediary in row over NHS pension plans

The British Medical Association (BMA) has been asked to hammer out an alternative to the government's plans for NHS pensions in conjunction with leading employment unions.

The Department of Health has asked the BMA to enter into talks with unions representing healthcare workers, leading some to argue that ministers are “trying to play one union off against another”.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “What we have said to the BMA is that if the unions themselves collectively wanted to come up with an alternative, they can.

"We are dealing with the unions together, and if they collectively come back and say that they have spoken and come up with an alternative that they would be happy to agree to, then we will consider it."

Doctors argue that unions should not have to vie with one another for a larger share of the overall pension pot. Last month, thousands of doctors took a day of industrial action after arguing that proposed changes to the pension system would only mean higher payments and longer working hours. This, they argued, would not be reflected in better retirement benefits.

While ministers admitted that the system would require increased contributions from doctors in the highest earning bracket, they argued that it would mean that lower paid NHS staff would be safeguarded.

The news adds to the current furore over the government’s automatic enrolment scheme which comes into effect from this autumn.

Many have argued that the new scheme, which gives companies new legal duty to automatically enrol staff in a pension, will cause many employees to miss out on the best deals.

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