Junior doctors in Wales vote overwhelmingly for strike action
Junior doctors in Wales have voted overwhelmingly for strike action in their fight for pay restoration, with a 72 hour full walkout to take place from 15 January.
Strike action will take place from 7am on 15 January to 7am on the 18 January as a result of the vote. This comes on the back of a campaign to restore Junior Doctors’ pay which has been cut by nearly a third (29.6%) in real terms since 2008/9.
98% in favour
Almost every junior doctor who cast a vote (98 %) voted in favour of industrial action in the ballot which ended at midday today (Monday 18th December).
A significant 65% of junior doctors eligible to vote in Wales had responded to a call to take part in strike action which will take place from 15 January.
The 72-hour full walkout could potentially see over 3,000 doctors with up to 11 years of experience out of medical school withdraw their labour from Welsh hospitals and GP surgeries across Wales in pursuit of a fairer deal for their service.
The Welsh junior doctors committee made the decision to ballot members in August after being offered another below-inflation pay offer of 5% – the worst in the UK and 1% lower than recommended by the DDRB (the review body for Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration).
The offer was put to the doctors just four months after the Welsh Government initially declared they would commit to the principle of pay restoration back in April 2023.
‘Frustrated and angry’
Dr Oba Babs-Osibodu and Dr Peter Fahey co-chairs of BMA Cymru Wales’ junior doctors committee said: “This vote clearly shows the strength of feeling. We are frustrated, in despair and angry and we have voted clearly to say, ‘in the name of our profession, we can’t and we won’t take any further erosion of our pay.
“Our members have been forced to take this difficult decision because Junior doctors in Wales have experienced a pay cut of 29.6 per cent in real terms over the last 15 years.
“A doctor starting their career in Wales will earn as little as £13.65**** an hour and for that they could be performing lifesaving procedures and taking on huge levels of responsibility.
“We aren’t asking for a pay rise – we are asking for our pay to be restored in line with inflation back to 2008 levels, when we began to receive pay cuts in real terms. Pay needs to be fair and competitive with other healthcare systems across the world to retain and recruit doctors and NHS staff to provide much-needed care.
“On top of this junior doctors are experiencing worsening conditions and so doctors are now looking to leave Wales to develop their careers for better pay and a better quality of life elsewhere.
“This is not a decision that has been made lightly. No doctor wants to take industrial action, but we have been given no choice. Doctors are already voting with their feet and leaving the NHS and we are in a vicious cycle of crippling staffing shortages and worsening patient care.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “It is disappointing that doctors have voted for industrial action but we understand their strength of feeling about the 5% pay offer.
“While we wish to address their pay restoration ambitions, our offer is at the limits of the finances available to us and reflects the position reached with the other health unions for this year. Without additional funding from the UK Government, we are not in a position to currently offer any more. We will continue to press them to pass on the funding necessary for full and fair pay rises for public sector workers.
“We remain committed to working in social partnership with the British Medical Association and NHS Employers and we will jointly ensure that patient safety is protected during industrial action.”
Responding to the vote, Plaid Cymru spokesperson for Health and Social Care, Mabon ap Gwynfor MS, said: “Junior doctors have seen their pay eroded continuously and their pay is nearly a third less in real terms today than what it was fifteen years ago.
“The NHS is nothing without its dedicated workforce, and that workforce deserves to be renumerated properly and to have the right working environment in order to provide the best care that they can. With inflation still running at nearly 6%, a 5% pay offer is another cut in real terms, and it’s no surprise that BMA members have decided to take action.
“The decision to take industrial action is not one that they will have taken lightly, and it’s such a profound disappointment to see a Labour Government in Wales failing to grasp the seriousness of the situation.
“Junior Doctors in England are also in dispute which is having a detrimental effect on patients outcomes here in Wales too. The UK Government are refusing to respond positively because of their ideological crusade against public services and the common good.
“This is impacting on Wales. I urge the Labour Government to re-enter negotiations in good faith and not to leave any stone unturned in their endeavours to find a resolution that ensures that we retain the junior doctors that we have and attract more to work in the Welsh NHS, and for the UK Government to put aside their callous disregard for others and give junior doctors the pay they deserve.”
Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister, Russell George MS said: “It is clear that the Labour Government’s has not done enough to avert the strikes that will be causing disruption after the busy Christmas period and inevitably beyond.
“Patients in Wales are already suffering from significant waiting times for treatment, in A&E and for ambulances. With news this morning that taxis are being used to replace ambulances in North Wales and Labour continuously missing their target of eliminating inhuman 2-year waits this disruption will act as a further setback as the winter pressures mount.
“I would suggest to Labour Ministers in the Senedd that they park their pet projects and spend the full Barnett consequential on the health budget, as for every £1 spent in England, Wales receives £1.20, yet Labour only spend £1.05 on the health service here in Wales.”
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