Why is the BMA setting up a strike fund and what can you do to help?

by Emma Runswick

Financial support for the doctors who wish to take part in industrial action is needed

Location: England
Published: Monday 3 April 2023
Emma Runswick

Doctors in the UK have hardly ever taken strike action. We have historically been better-off workers, with limited need for financial assistance. Both of those things are changing.

Doctors are struggling with a collapsing health service, which is underfunded and understaffed. We are paid as little as £14 per hour, despite our training, responsibility, and debt burden. We are moved around the country with limited choice. We pay for our own professional development. Childcare costs for shift workers such as us, moved away from family support, are extortionate.

There is a growing need to fight back but our ability to absorb the financial hit of doing this has been hampered by the cost-of-living crisis and a real-terms pay cut in every branch of practice since 2008.

Strike action only works well if a super majority participates.

A strike fund is a tool to enable union members to strike, who would otherwise be prevented from taking part for financial reasons. It reduces the personal costs of taking collective action. And by doing so, it strengthens all of us.

If you want to support the fight for fair wages, good conditions and a health service we can be proud of, donate here

My role as BMA council deputy chair is (nominally) two days a week and has a salary paid by the BMA – which is you, the members. That salary exceeds my pay and pension losses from going less-than full time. I have arranged instead to receive exactly the same pay and benefits as I would if I hadn’t been elected. This is an important political and cultural principle for me.

I am a working junior doctor in psychiatry. My commitment to make no financial gain from my elected role keeps me closer to the realities of being a junior doctor. It ensures I have personal investment in winning with you. It prevents accusations that I am attracted to the role on financial grounds.

The arrangement is that the BMA pays my employer for two days of salary, pensions and other costs, which releases me to work for you.

However, the honorarium (salary) for the role is allocated in the BMA budget by the remuneration committee, with reference to the consultant salary scale. I have arranged for the amount not paid to me of approximately £22,000 a year, to be transferred instead to the new BMA strike fund.

If you too are in a position to contribute to the strike fund, please consider doing that. It could be a lifeline for doctors in financial hardship who feel pressured to cross the picket line. And if you are worried about taking part in strike action for financial reasons, keep an eye on your emails as arrangements to make claims from the fund will be announced soon.

Read BMA strike fund guidance


Emma Runswick is BMA council deputy chair