The SoR congratulate BMA consultants on securing significant improvements to their pay and reward system, following their industrial action. The last action was co-ordinated with our own strike action on 3 October, which coincided with the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester.
Following the improved offer to the BMA, we have written to the new Secretary of State, Victoria Atkins MP, asking for an urgent response to our request for similar discussions with her and her officials. These talks, with the only Agenda for Change (AfC) union that still has a mandate for strike action, should be a ministerial priority.
The government’s previous response to the SoR said that they would be unable and unwilling to discuss an improved 2023-24 pay offer for our members as they were now actively engaging with the AfC unions as part of the 2024-25 pay round. The SoR will be a full and active party to these talks, especially as we remain in formal dispute. We also expect a minister to engage directly with us about the radiography workforce crisis and constructively working to resolve our dispute.
The BMA offer shows that the government is willing and capable of finding additional resources now to begin to address the kind of structural faults in the AfC system. We note the improvements afforded to the BMA are consciously offered before any remit for 2024-25.
For example, the two most significant headlines in the offer to BMA members are:
These are mirrored in our concerns around the existing AfC structures – most specifically:
The BMA’s offer shows that government can, when it is willing, find the level of investment needed to repair the crumbling pay and reward structures. Having done so for consultants, the SoR and other AfC unions, will now be expecting the new Secretary of State to do the same for other NHS professionals.
We expect the Secretary of State to meet with us and set out how the 2024-25 pay remit and negotiations will address these issues and start to address the other concerns around pay restoration and resourcing for a genuine, serious workforce plan at the heart of our on-going dispute, and the action we and other Allied Health Unions have taken in 2023.
If the minister is willing to show the same level of engagement with us as she has shown with the BMA, progress is possible and further action will be avoided. However, our members have noted the offer to the BMA and she now stands on notice - a failure to engage constructively with us, and facilitate the same level of progress for our members in the 2024-25 pay round will prompt further calls for industrial action.
No professionals want to strike but if this is the only way to force this government to engage constructively then further industrial action will be likely in 2024.