Northern Ireland junior doctors begin 24-hour strike action over pay

by BMA NI media team

Press release from BMA Northern Ireland

Location: Northern Ireland
Published: Wednesday 6 March 2024

Today (Wednesday 06 March) junior doctors across the country will take part in industrial action over pay for the first time in Northern Ireland.

The 24-hour full walkout from 8am on Wednesday 06 March to 8am on Thursday 07 March will see junior doctors withdraw their labour from hospitals and GP surgeries across Northern Ireland in their fight for a fairer pay deal.

The strike action was called after 97.6% of junior doctors balloted by BMA Northern Ireland voted in favour of industrial action for full pay restoration to reverse over 16 years pay erosion*.

Dr Fiona Griffin, chair of BMA’s Northern Ireland junior doctors committee, said: "No doctor wants to strike, but we feel we have been left with no choice but to stand up for ourselves. We are no longer going to put up with unacceptable pay and conditions; they are causing an acute workforce crisis that is not being taken seriously.

"Junior doctors working in Northern Ireland range from being newly qualified doctors earning less than £13 per-hour to experienced surgeons, oncologists and cardiologists earning £30 per-hour.

"It therefore should be no surprise that more and more of us are leaving or contemplating leaving the health service to work elsewhere for better pay and working conditions, and where the complex and skilled work we undertake is properly rewarded. We are the consultants, the GPs and the specialty doctors of the future whom the Department of Health is dependent upon to turnaround our crisis-hit health service."

Dr Griffin reiterated her frustration at the lack meaningful engagement from Department of Health officials and the Health Minister on addressing junior doctor pay asks.

"We had hoped the undeniable strength of feeling returned in our ballot would be recognised and there would be swift action from the Minister and Department of Health to avert the strike. Frustratingly, this has not happened," said Dr Griffin.

"Instead, we have been dismissed with an offer that was essentially the minimum we could have been given. Hearing that any further pay discussions will have to wait until England’s pay negotiations have concluded is ridiculous and unacceptable. It adds to the palpable sense among junior doctors that we are not valued for the service we provide."

Dr Griffin appealed to the Health Minister to engage in meaningful negotiations towards pay restoration.

"The Minister needs to address the fact that doctors of all levels already voting with their feet and leaving the health service,” she said.

"Nothing less than an immediate, above inflation pay award and a commitment to full pay restoration to 2008 levels will only address this. Otherwise the vicious cycle of staffing shortages and worsening patient care will only continue.

"The future of our profession and our health service depends on this issue being addressed urgently and we are willing to get around the negotiating table at any time to achieve this."

Notes to editors

*For more information on the junior doctors pay campaign and how their pay has eroded since 2008, visit www.bma.org.uk/juniorspayni

On strike day (Wednesday 6 March 2024), there will be BMA Northern Ireland junior doctor spokespeople available at the Royal Victoria Hospital demo, Grosvenor Road entrance, from 7.30am to 10.00am. Please email [email protected] if you wish to set up interviews at this location.

There will also be demos between 7.30am-11.00am on Strike day at Altnagelvin, Craigavon, Antrim and Ulster Hospitals.  Please note, we will not be able to facilitate interviews at all demo sites.

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