Junior doctors are marching in London in protest at the government’s new National Health System contracts proposals. Its leader is asking Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to reopen negotiations before planning a ballot of members on industrial action.
Junior doctors’ Union -The British Medical Association (BMA)- is demanding that the government withdraw its threat to impose the new contract in England from next year on before continuing planning for a ballot of members on industrial action.
The government in England has decided to introduce new NHS contracts as it finds the current arrangements ‘outdated’ and ‘unfair’ reminding they were introduced in the 1990s.
Already in 2012 plans to amend the contracts were drawn up by Ministers before talks broke down in 2014.
Scotland and Wales have both said they will be sticking to the old contract. Northern Ireland, on the other hand, has yet to make a decision.
The BMA says the plans will lead to a drop in junior doctors’ salaries. There are many elements remaining on the negotiation table but the main dispute relates to the proposal to cut the number of working hours classified as “unsociable”.
The current contract says doctors receive a higher rate of pay when they work outside of 07:00 to 19:00 Monday to Friday. But the new agreement would see this extended to 07:00 to 22:00 Monday to Saturday, which means the number of “normal ” working hours (classified as “sociable “) would be increased by 50%. Thus, doctors unsociable hours would automatically devaluate.
Chairman of the BMA’s junior doctors Committee Dr Johann Malawana argued in turn that doctors acknowledged the new contract would cut their pay by up to 30% and force them to work even more unsociable shifts.
Who does it affect ?
Typically, with the new contract taking effect there will be both losers and winners.
Where there is little unsociable working earnings could go up. However The BMA estimates earnings could fall by 15% for others who do a lot of weekend and night working.
What next ?
The protest has expanded in other cities than the Capital, gathering thousands of doctors in Belfast and Nottingham. This demonstrates the strength of feeling and unity behind the campaign against the controversial new contract.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt – who claimed this was a a ‘good deal’ arguing the new deal would reduce the maximum hours to work from 91 to 72 – also called on the BMA to return to the negotiating table.
What remains to be seen is minister’s response to the weekend’s protests and wether those would efficiently reopen negotiations between both sides.