08 January 2024

First strike ballot of junior doctors in Northern Ireland opens

08 January 2024

Junior doctors in Northern Ireland are being balloted for strike action for the first time.

They are being asked to vote over whether to take a 24-hour strike over pay in March.

The British Medical Association’s Northern Ireland junior doctors committee (NIJDC) said it comes amid frustration at a “continued failure to address pay erosion, which now equates to a 30% reduction in 15 years”.

The ballot comes following industrial action by a number of groups of public sector workers in Northern Ireland because of an ongoing lack of pay parity with their counterparts in the rest of the UK who have achieved a pay rise.

Our health service cannot afford to lose these doctors, which is why we need to address the issues around pay urgently

A general strike is set to take place on January 18, with participation expected by health workers, midwives, radiographers, teachers and civil servants.

NIJDC chair Dr Fiona Griffin described the ballot for a 24-hour strike from 8am on March 6 to 8am on March 7 as “unprecedented” among junior doctors in Northern Ireland.

“They are the worst-paid with the worst working conditions of any of the UK nations and this is why we are encouraging them to vote yes and to show the strength of their feeling both in the ballot and in subsequent strike action,” she said.

“Our members made clear to us over summer 2023 that they have had enough. When we surveyed them, 75% said they were considering moving abroad to work for better pay and conditions; 72% said they were now more likely to leave training entirely because of low pay; 61% said they were not paid fairly for the work that they do.

“Our health service cannot afford to lose these doctors, which is why we need to address the issues around pay urgently. This can be done with an immediate above inflation pay rise and a commitment to full pay restoration in Northern Ireland.”

Dr Griffin urged the Government to engage with NIJDC as a matter of urgency.

“Let me reiterate that strike action does not need to happen,” she said.

“We are willing to talk to Government to avoid this outcome. We would welcome any approach from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to talk to us.

“We are meeting with the Permanent Secretary for Health and we would urge them to consider our asks and work with us to improve the working lives of doctors in Northern Ireland.

“If we do not see any progress towards achieving our aims, we will have to escalate our action and there will be longer strikes.”

The ballot will runs for six weeks and the results are to be announced on February 19.

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