by WP Trade Union Group
This week so-called “Junior” Doctors are again taking industrial action across England for 96 hours to demand better pay and working conditions, following on from a 3 day strike just a month ago.
Junior doctors are qualified medical doctors who are undertaking further training in specialties such as General Practice, Surgery and Oncology etc. They make up 40% of the workforce and while the name ‘Junior Doctor’ may make them sound like they are fresh out of school, the vast majority of Junior Doctors are well established in their medical careers, perform surgeries independently, manage wards, supervise their juniors, consult with patients, and undertake vital research and development.
The ever growing demands placed on Junior Doctors through changing curriculums, frequent rotations to new geographical areas meaning long commutes, understaffing pressures, expensive exams with insufficient time to study etc etc, risks making the career unviable and unappealing for many of the UK’s medical graduates who are seeking better paid, less stressful careers in Australia, Canada, Dubai and elsewhere. One Australian state government recently publicly stated its intention to poach over 30,000 UK trained junior doctors by offering relocation payments, higher salaries, and a better lifestyle for families.
Junior Doctors in England at a Foundation Year 1 level are paid £29,384 per year with those in their final years of Specialty (ST6-8) training paid £58,398 per year. It can take up to 10 years to move from the FY1 to ST8 level, much longer if the Doctor takes any time off training for maternity leave, sickness, taking up a research post or completing further studies. Compare this to junior doctor salaries in Australia, where an equivalent ST6-8 will have a base salary on equivalent £70,000 plus generous overtime pay and allowances. Its no surprise that many are taking up this antipodean offer.
As medical students are poached by higher paying countries, the UK is relying more heavily on international medical graduates to fill the gap.
These doctors, who are on sponsored visas are less likely to take industrial action and some have even reported facing threats from their employers that their visa will be at risk should they choose to strike. This has created a divide in the workplace with UK medical graduates keen to fight for better wages and conditions, with international graduates finding UK pay and conditions much better than their home countries, facing threats to their visas and therefore less likely to take industrial action and fight for better conditions. This division increases the risk of reinforcing the recruitment and retention cycle in the NHS which ultimately results in a poorer service to the public.
The British Medical Association (BMA), which represents doctors and medical students is demanding a 35% pay rise for Junior Doctors in England. This demand is in the context of static pay since 2008 and rising inflation across the country, making hard working doctors much worse off than they were 15 years ago. A 35% rise will also make salaries more competitive in the global market and improve recruitment and retention rates in the NHS, which are currently at crisis levels.
The BMA have shown strong leadership in their defence of junior doctors and demands for 35% pay rise in a period were nurses and other NHS workers are being instructed by the Royal College of Nursing and Unison to accept a 5% increase while inflation rages at 13+%. Time for the RCN, Unison and other unions representing NHS workers follow the BMAs lead and demand full pay restoration!