Junior Doctors Strike Demanding Better Pay And Working Conditions

junior doctors industrial action
Junior doctors vote industrial action

Junior doctors paid lower hourly rate than workers to get at Pret

Junior doctors in the UK have taken to the streets in protest over their wages and working conditions. And let me tell you, as someone who has always been a staunch defender of workers’ rights, I stand firmly with these Junior doctors and health workers in general in their fight for better pay and conditions.

Some 98 per cent of the 45,000 junior doctors balloted by the BMA voted in favour of strike action.

It was a record number of junior doctors voting for strike action.

The strikes will take place between March 13 and March 15, 2023.

Junior doctors are to challenge the government over their falling pay in real terms with a campaign which highlights that they are paid a lower hourly rate than some store workers are to get from April at the food retail chain Pret a Manger.

As thousands of doctors set out on a three-day strike in England from Monday, the British Medical Association (BMA) is to highlight how the cost of living crisis risks driving them out of the profession. Most junior doctors are starting their careers with tens of thousands of pounds in student debts.

Pret announced earlier this month that it was giving staff a third pay rise in 12 months, with its baristas able to earn up to £11.80 to £14.10 an hour depending on location and experience. The highest hourly pay in the new rates starting from April includes a bonus for providing good service.

In contrast, the basic hourly pay of junior doctor can be as low as £14.09 in the first year of work-based training. This is based on a full-time salary of £29,384 for foundation year 1 for 2022-23.

It is nothing short of scandalous that these dedicated professionals, who work tirelessly to keep our healthcare system running, have seen their salaries reduced year on year due to inflation and cuts, their salaries are 26% lower than they were in 2008 in real terms. They are under immense pressure, working long hours in difficult and often dangerous conditions, yet they receive very little recognition or compensation for their efforts.

Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has only served to exacerbate the situation, with both Doctors and nurses being pushed to their limits in order to care for those who are sick and dying. Many at the time were forced to work without proper protective equipment, putting their own health at risk, all while being underpaid for their efforts.

This is unacceptable, and it is high time that the government took action to address this crisis. Health workers are the backbone of our healthcare system, and without them, we would be lost. It is essential that they are given the support and resources they need to continue doing their vital work.

And let’s not forget, the strike action being taken by these Junior doctors is not just about their own wages and working conditions. It is also about the future of our healthcare system as a whole. If we do not invest in our healthcare workers, we risk losing them to other countries, leaving our healthcare system in a state of crisis, it’s simple if you want to retain staff pay them.

An NHS spokesperson said patients should not be put off from seeking emergency care during strikes.

Patients have also been told to continue to attend appointments unless advised otherwise, amid concerns of severe disruption.

Paul Brennan, chief operating officer at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, said it had worked hard to keep patients safe and deliver the best care possible.

The 72-hour strike by junior doctors, who represent 40% of the medical workforce, will see them walk out of both routine and emergency care.

But by law, they can only withdraw from life-and-limb emergency care if the NHS has found other staff to cover for them.

nhs strike
Dr Lucy Jackson, at Hereford’s County Hospital, said doctors had been working to keep patients safe during a tough time in the NHS Image courtesy of the BBC

“We want full pay restoration from the last 15 years, where our pay has been degraded year-on-year, despite the rising cost of living and the enormous increase in our workload,” Dr Lucy Jackson.

Speaking outside the County Hospital, she said many doctors felt “undervalued” and “underpaid” and said the dispute over pay had driven others to leave the medical profession.

“We’ve got patients for operations who are in corridors in the wards and it’s not safe,” she said.

“It’s the junior doctors who are expected to keep them safe on these wards – it’s not fair.”

Dr Jackson added she was “confident” that other staff would be able to cover roles in their absence.

We cannot build a thriving modern democracy without a robust and hearty workforce. It is a universal truth that good health and education form the bedrock of productivity. Therefore, let us invest in our people’s well-being and knowledge, while affording them access to vocational training and retraining opportunities. Only then shall we witness a true upsurge in real production. And in this case, the means of production lay in the hands of well educated well paid health workers.

So to all those who would criticize the health care workers whether Junior doctors or nurses for striking, I say this: they are not selfish, entitled, or greedy. They are simply standing up for their basic rights as workers and demanding the respect and dignity they deserve. And as someone who has always stood on the side of workers in their struggles for justice, I stand with them now, more than ever.

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