Have your say on the junior doctor pay offer in Scotland

An update on junior doctor pay negotiations from Scottish junior doctor committee chair Chris Smith

Location: Scotland
Published: Monday 22 May 2023
chris smith

Thank you for your patience following the ballot result.

The Scottish Junior Doctors Committee has been negotiating with the Scottish Government and NHS Employers on a pay offer for Junior Doctors. The purpose of these negotiations was to find ways to reverse the real terms 23.5% pay erosion Junior Doctors have experienced since 2008.

Following this round of negotiations, the Scottish Government has offered Junior Doctors an aggregate uplift of 14.5% over two years, with a 6.5% uplift for this year and an increase from 4.5% to 7.5%, backdated for 2022/23.

Moreover, if the offer is accepted and there is subsequently a higher award recommended by the Doctors and Dentist’s Pay Review Body (DDRB) when they publish in the coming months, or if the outcome of the Junior Doctor strikes in England leads to further funding being made available for the Scottish health budget, we will receive a higher pay award that reflects this.

You can find more details on our pay restoration page.

As part of the offer, the Scottish Government has acknowledged that Scottish Junior Doctors have lost confidence in how their pay is decided and that it has not appropriately recognised our key contribution to the health service. They are proposing to set up a Junior Doctor Pay Bargaining Review Taskforce with the Scottish Junior Doctors Committee. This group will be tasked with developing a new pay bargaining system for Junior Doctors in Scotland that can tackle the pay erosion we have experienced and prevent it recurring going forward. Solutions should be proposed by September 2023.

This is still within the 6 month legal mandate following our strike ballot when we have the power to call for industrial action. This means, if necessary, strikes could be called in September should this taskforce not deliver credible solutions. However, any prolonged industrial action may require a re-balloting of members to extend the strike mandate which would be closer to expiring at that point.

BMA Scotland is putting this offer to you neutrally, meaning we are not taking a position on whether to accept or reject the offer. This keeps the power in your hands to decide how we take this campaign forward.

Putting this to you neutrally reflects that fact that this is a complex decision, and there are two potentially viable paths towards full pay restoration from here. Both will require continued engagement with the BMA, and continued campaigning over a period of years.

Accepting the offer would mean accepting and securing the 2022-24 14.5% uplift now and engaging with the new joint Taskforce until it reports in September to produce further measures tackling pay erosion in the coming years. We would have the pressure of an industrial action mandate throughout the duration of the Taskforce which could give us the leverage we need to secure a workable path towards pay restoration from the government, potentially without having to resort to industrial action at all. However, while we would enter the work of the taskforce in good faith, there is no guarantee that it will deliver results we consider sufficient.

A vote to reject would be making a statement that this offer on its own does not provide assurances on pay restoration, and is sub-inflationary over the two-year period, despite being an above inflation offer for this year if inflation falls as predicted. Unless the government re-engaged positively and urgently, we would then look to announce strike dates and likely begin a period of industrial action with the intention of pressuring the government to improve their offer. Particularly by seeking firmer commitments on materially improving our real terms pay in the coming years to tackle pay erosion. However, there are also no guarantees in this scenario, and we may have reached the limit of what the Scottish Government will offer us this year. Moreover, if the deal is rejected it may not remain on the table for acceptance at a later date and the government could try to resist reengaging with us.

Details of an online consultative vote on this offer which will ask you to accept or reject it will follow very shortly. This is an important decision, but it is doctors voting and engaging with the BMA in Scotland that has taken us to this point, and it must be you who continue to set the direction of our union going forward.