JUNIOR doctors, furious at being offered only a 2 per cent pay rise last month, are considering strike action. The British Medical Association (BMA) junior doctors committee has been polling members to assess their ‘strength of feeling’ and appetite for industrial action.
The provisional findings from a survey of about 2,500 doctors suggest more than 80% are willing to strike. The BMA Council will now decide whether to carry out a formal ballot of up to 55,000 junior doctors. This would take place within the next six to eight weeks and depending on the result, could give the union a legal right to strike.
Junior doctors last took industrial action in 2016 and there were four separate walkouts that winter.
Last month the government offered junior doctors a 2 per cent pay rise as part of a major pay deal for public sector workers. But doctors say this amounts to a pay cut, once the cost of living is taken into account, and described it as a ‘slap in the face’. Members of the junior doctors committee are already rallying support for industrial action via their regional branches.
Separately, the BMA carried out an official online survey to assess junior doctors’ feelings on the pay deal with nine out of ten declaring it ‘unacceptable’. Junior doctors committee chairman Jeeves Wijesuriya wrote a blog on the BMA’s website last month, days after the deal was announced, entitled: ‘Enough is enough’.
He added: ‘The pay announcement for doctors in England is even worse than many predicted. This is no pay “increase”. This is yet another real-terms pay cut. ‘We are keen to discuss next steps with other unions whose members are equally frustrated by recent pay announcements and take stock of this dialogue when planning our response.’
Another senior committee member, Thabo Miller, wrote on Facebook: ‘We all have seen the pay award… we all think it is disgusting. I think most of us feel that the BMA need to draw a line in the sand and fight this.’ Other doctors posted messages on Facebook describing the deal as ‘insulting’ and a ‘slap in the face’. Several called for ‘work to rule’ action, a ‘full strike’ or in one case, a ‘full withdrawal of services for 120 hours’.