The continued underfunding of staff and services by all four governments of the UK has led the NHS to where it is today – precarious and unsafe for staff and patients.
As junior doctors in England prepare to walk out over pay and conditions next week and the Scottish junior doctors committee launches its ballot, we want to set out what the BMA is doing for junior doctors in Wales and the future of the profession.
Recent pay talks and achieving full pay restoration
Whilst we have made it very clear that the Welsh Junior Doctors Committee voted to reject the recent enhanced pay offer, overall, the offer was accepted by unions which were asked to vote on whether to accept it collectively for those working in secondary care.
As part of the enhanced pay offer the minister made a commitment to the principle of pay restoration to 2008 levels. Whilst this is a positive step, one of the reasons we voted to reject the offer was because the statement does not go far enough. We have now written to the minister for health and social services to request a clear timeframe for them to make good on their commitment to achieving pay restoration in Wales.
The Welsh Government is the first government in the UK to make a commitment to the principle of pay restoration. It is in the interests of doctors throughout the UK to get the Welsh Government to now commit to a timeline to restore pay to address the 26% real-terms (RPI) cut in pay we have seen since 2008 within the next four years to set an important blueprint for our colleagues across the nations.
Are junior doctors in Wales taking industrial action?
As committed FPR campaigners we’re often asked why the BMA Welsh junior doctors committee has not yet initiated a ballot for industrial action on pay like our colleagues in England and so we would like to set the record straight.
Unlike colleagues in England the Welsh Government has engaged in conversation around junior doctor pay and our fight for full pay restoration. As a result we are not currently in a formal dispute on pay. However, as outlined above, we have written to the minister to express that WJDC is not satisfied with the recent enhanced pay award or the commitment to the principle of pay restoration provided.
This is not to say that we’re not prepared and organised to ballot members should we need to, in fact we recently launched a pay activism training programme to ensure we’d be ready if the time comes as part of our commitment to pay restoration.
Taking the decision to ballot our members on industrial action will be our very last resort, just as it was for our colleagues in England and Scotland, and we are continuing to press the Welsh Government to confirm a timeframe for full pay restoration – a precedent that would benefit doctors throughout the UK.
Preparing the groundwork
Whilst we work hard to get a better deal for the future of the profession, we’re also building on initiatives to create fairer pay for doctors in the short term including the publication of a new rate cards for junior doctors on the 2002 contract.
We are all frequently asked to work additional shifts outside of our contracted hours and, given the increasing cost of living, sometimes we need to take on that additional work. But these shifts also have an impact on our wellbeing, our free time, our families and, ultimately, our health.
For too long this work, has also been undervalued, with rates of pay for additional duty hours also failing to keep up with the cost of living. The rate cards are therefore designed to help doctors set out their rights and pay rates when negotiating non-contractual work.
You can read more about the rates on our website, as well as guidance on when you are able to refuse non-contractual work if the rate of pay is regarded as insufficient.
Support for our junior doctors in England
As you are likely aware, the UK Government has so far failed to engage meaningfully with the UK junior doctors committee co-chairs in their call for full pay restoration to 2008 levels in England.
As a result, they now feel they have no option to take than industrial action and will be beginning with a full 72 hour walkout in March. We are in full support of our colleagues in England and would also encourage you to show your solidarity over the coming weeks!
How you can play your part
We all need to play a part in achieving full pay restoration, that’s why we are asking you to sign up today to become a BMA Cymru Wales junior doctor pay activist. As a pay activist you’ll be instrumental in building a team at your workplace that drives our campaign for full pay restoration!
Georgina Budd and Amna Babiker are co-chairs of the BMA Welsh junior doctors committee