Members will be aware that we recently undertook a consultation exercise on the government pay awards in England and Wales. The results were:


In favour of accepting the 3% award: 26%

Against acceptance: 70.07%

Members were also asked whether in the event of rejection they would be prepared to vote yes in an industrial action ballot. On this question the results were:

Yes 77.37%

No 22.63%


In favour of accepting the 3%: 21.67%

Against acceptance: 78.33%

Those who would vote in favour of industrial action:

Yes 77.19%

No 22.81%

As outlined in the explanatory email that accompanied the consultation the Trade Union Act 2016 placed new restrictions on trade unions including higher thresholds for success on industrial action ballots.

From March 2017, it has been a requirement that industrial action ballots must attract a 50% turnout in order for their results to be legally valid. For instance, if 100 workers are eligible to vote, and only 49 turnout for the vote, workers cannot take industrial action even if all 49 votes are in favour.

Along with this there is a requirement for 40% support which means that in some important public services, including the NHS, we would have to reach a 40% support threshold among all workers eligible to vote, as well as the 50% turnout threshold. This means that if 100 workers are eligible to vote, at least 50 have to vote and at least 40 of them have to vote in favour. If 50 voted and 39 voted in support, it would still not be legal to take industrial action, even though the vast majority of voters elected for it.

Unfortunately, our consultation ballot did not reach anywhere near enough the 50% turnout requirement and we are not confident that a formal ballot would achieve it. Therefore, the Trade Union National Executive Committee (TUNEC) decided not to carry out a formal ballot for industrial action.

Other considerations were taken into account in coming to this decision, which included the timing of any action which would likely be around Christmas, that members will have already received the 3% in their pay and that the preparations for the 2022/23 pay round should begin by December this year.

The TUNEC have instead decided that a major campaign should be mounted to demand a real and meaningful pay award next year. We are aware that NHS staff have been working beyond expectation during the pandemic and many are exhausted and suffering the mental and physical effects of work and illness and many would not be in a position to give proper consideration to taking industrial action.

Along with our sister unions in the NHS, the BDA will be ensuring that every aspect of the current economic situation is counted including the rise in national insurance, rising inflation and increased pension contributions etc. We are clear that in the event that the pay recommendation for 2022/23 is insufficient then a ballot for industrial action should be considered with a significant campaign to build maximum participation.