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Doctors to enter pay negotiations with the Welsh Government

09 Apr 2024 5 minute read
Junior doctors on the picket line at Cardiff’s University Hospital. Photo Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Forthcoming industrial action for consultants and specialist doctors has been suspended following a meeting with the Welsh Government to resolve pay disputes.

It comes following three rounds of industrial action by junior doctors in Wales.

The Welsh Government and BMA Cymru Wales’ three national committees representing consultants, specialist doctors and junior doctors have today agreed to formal negotiations about pay.

A planned 48-hour strike by consultants and specialist doctors was due to take place from 16 April.

It will now be suspended during the negotiations and junior doctors have paused plans to announce more strike dates.

Deals

The Welsh junior doctors committee, Welsh SAS committee and Welsh consultants committee say they aim to reach deals which can be taken separately to their respective members.

The Welsh Government says a mandate is being developed for the talks with all three BMA branches of practice with the aim of resolving the disputes over pay for 2023-24.

Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for Health and Social Care Mabon ap Gwynfor has urged the Welsh Government to commit to an improved pay offer.

He said: “While we welcome progress in the negotiations between the BMA and Welsh Government, Plaid Cymru continue to urge the Labour Welsh Government to improve their offer to Consultants and SAS, and finally give Junior Doctors the full pay restoration they’ve been promised.

“Recruitment and retention remains a huge issue within the NHS. These strikes have highlighted again that poor working agreements and remuneration has resulted in clinicians leaving in droves to England, Australia and beyond. Plaid Cymru knows that the NHS is nothing without its workforce – and while we know money is tight, the fact of the matter is that we simply cannot afford not to improve the offer. The stakes are too high.”

Ministers say Wales is facing its most challenging financial position since devolution and a significant amount of work has been undertaken to identify funding to support the negotiations.

First Minister Vaughan Gething said: “We recognise the strength of feeling among BMA members and that industrial action is never taken lightly.

“This is a government that listens and engages to find solutions. I prioritised a meeting with the BMA directly alongside the Cabinet Secretary for Health to reinforce our commitment to that partnership approach.

“We currently face the most severe financial situation in the devolution era which makes our task far harder. Despite this backdrop, we have worked to identify a way forward that I hope will lead to the successful resolution of this dispute and ensure that doctors can return to work in NHS Wales.”

Cabinet Secretary for Health Eluned Morgan added: “Even in these very challenging circumstances, we have worked in social partnership with the BMA and NHS to maintain patent safety during industrial action.

“But the strikes have been very disruptive to the delivery of NHS services – none of us want to see doctors on strike. I am pleased the three BMA committees have agreed to pause further industrial action and begin formal talks with Welsh Government and hope we can bring an end to this dispute.”

Disputes

In August last year, the BMA’s committees representing secondary care doctors in Wales voted to enter into separate trade disputes with the Welsh Government after being offered another below inflation pay uplift of just 5% for the 23/24 financial year.

SAS doctors on some contracts were offered as little as 1.5%.

This was the lowest pay offer of any government in the UK and less than the DDRB – the pay review body for doctors and dentists – recommended last year.

As part of their disputes, SAS doctors, consultants and junior doctors carried out successful ballots for industrial action.

Since then, junior doctors have taken part in 10 days of industrial action since January this year.

Dr Oba Babs Osibodu and Dr Peter Fahey co-chairs of the BMA’s Welsh Junior doctors Committee said: “This is a significant step forward. It is sad that we had to take industrial action to get here, but we are proud of members for demonstrating their resolve in pursuit of a fair deal for the profession.

“Whilst we are optimistic and hope to quickly resolve our dispute, we remain steadfast in achieving pay restoration. Until we reach a deal, nothing is off the table.

“We will continue to work hard to reach an offer that is credible to put to members who will ultimately have the final say.”

Dr Stephen Kelly, chair of BMA Cymru Wales’ Consultants committee said: “The Welsh Government’s recent efforts to reach an end to the pay dispute are encouraging and so we have called off our planned strike for now whilst we allow time and space for negotiations to take place.

“We’re hopeful that we can reach a deal that sufficiently addresses years of erosion to our pay to help retain senior doctors in Wales but remain ready to strike if we’re not able to do so during negotiations.”

Dr Ali Nazir, chair of BMA Cymru Wales’ SAS doctor committee said: “As a committee, we felt that this latest development goes someway to understanding the strength of feeling of our members. We will work hard to reach a settlement that sufficiently meets the expectation of our colleagues who have faced real terms pay cuts of up to a third since 2008/9.”


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