Tens of thousands of junior doctors in England have gone on strike this week, demanding a pay increase. For many trainee physicians, "hourly pay falls below that of some baristas and fast-food workers," CNN reports.
Junior doctors working for England's National Health Service walked off the job on Tuesday, kicking off a four-day strike. They are "demanding a 35 percent increase in annual salaries," CNN explains. Junior doctors have seen their pay cut by 26 percent since 2008, accounting for inflation, per the British Medical Association, a trade union for UK doctors.
The BMA estimates that first-year junior doctors can expect a £29,384 ($36,795) salary. After taxes and student loan payments, they take home less than £2,000 ($2,502) a month. Though their wages increase over the years of post-college training, BMA argues that "junior doctors are not adequately compensated either for their high workloads and rigorous training or the life-saving responsibilities they often undertake," CNN summarizes.
"For too long, we have been undervalued," Dr. Vivek Trivedi, co-chair of the BMA junior doctors committee, said to the crowd on the first day of the strike. "We have reached the end of our tether. The government has pushed us to our limits."
UK Health Minister Steve Barclay had hoped to start "meaningful negotiations" with the BMA in March, he said in a tweet Wednesday. Barclay called the union's call for a 35 percent pay rise for junior doctors "unreasonable" and said he would resume talks with the BMA if the union moved "significantly" away from its current demand.
An estimated 350,000 appointments and operations have been canceled due to the strike, per the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS health-care providers. The confederation says almost 40 percent of England's NHS doctors are junior doctors.
"The full impact will not be known straight away. NHS staff are doing all they can to minimize disruption," said Matthew Taylor, the confederation's chief executive.