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Junior doctors in Scotland to be balloted for strike action

Junior doctors will be balloted for strike action from late March, the British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland has confirmed.

BMA Scotland’s junior doctor committee is in formal dispute with the Scottish Government over what the union says is 15 years of pay erosion and sees a junior doctor earning 23.5% less than if they were doing the same job in 2008.

Junior doctors were offered an increase of 4.5%, which they say is a real-terms pay cut.

The ballot will run from March 29 to May 5.

Chris Smith, chairman of the committee, said: “This is a significant moment for junior doctors in Scotland and March 29 will be a hugely important day.

“Not only do we need pay restoration to finally value our work appropriately, we also need it to address the staffing crisis in our NHS.

“The first and easiest step towards this is to begin negotiations with us on a clear plan for pay restoration – which would in effect be a down payment to secure a sustainable future for the NHS.”

Dr Smith said the union had seen “no evidence” that the Scottish Government is prepared to enter into any formal negotiations around delivering full pay restoration for junior doctors, and it will meet the Scottish Health Secretary to discuss the issue soon.

Dr Smith added: “Based on our experience so far, I am not holding my breath.

“If the Scottish Government wants to keep using its line about no NHS strikes in Scotland, junior doctors are going to need a rapid and tangible change of direction.

“Our message is clear: the only way to resolve this dispute is direct and formal pay negotiations between the BMA Scotland junior doctors committee and Scottish Government, tasked to address 15 years of pay erosion.”

Previously, Dr Smith said some junior doctors making “life or death decisions and staffing wards across the country” were earning a basic salary that equates to about £14 an hour and he warned the situation was not sustainable.

Humza Yousaf
Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has often highlighted that NHS staff in Scotland have not been involved in recent strike action (PA)

Other NHS staff in Scotland, including nurses, paramedics and midwives, have been offered a 6.5% increase on average, which Unison and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland have urged members to accept.

Under plans announced by Health Secretary Humza Yousaf last week, workers on the Agenda for Change pay scale will see rises as well as a one-off payment of between £387 and £939 depending on what band they are on.

Mr Yousaf, who is fighting to become the next leader of the SNP and first minister of Scotland, said if workers accept the deal they will be “by far and away the best paid anywhere in the UK”.

Under the proposals, those on band one, the lowest, will see their pay go up to £23,240 in 2023/24, an increase of 7.14%. They will also get a one-off payment of £387.

Those on the highest band nine will see their pay go up by 3.33% next financial year.