“My boss doesn’t believe that employment laws apply to him!” This was one of many responses received following Mike Nelson’s column in the last issue regarding calls for a veterinary union to be set up.
A number of correspondents, fearful for their jobs, asked to remain anonymous. One said she had been dismissed twice from practices for things she hadn’t done. She knew of quite a number of young graduates who had already left the profession because of the way they had been treated.
It is clear that there is considerable unrest among assistant veterinary surgeons, not all of them young or recent graduates, over various employment issues, ranging from harassment and bullying to lack of respect and inadequate pay.
One complaint from some female assistants is that they are being paid less than male colleagues for equivalent jobs. Quite a number do not have contracts of employment, despite this being a legal requirement, but generally feel powerless to do anything about it.
Several readers scoffed at the notion that the BVA would, or could, help them. “We need a body free from influence from employers,” was the main feeling expressed.
One reader said that the BVA was trying to do more for younger graduates than ever before but was not getting to grips with employment issues. He said he recalled that BVA staff were reported to have joined a trade union some years ago when they felt they were being treated unfairly. “It’s time for us to do the same, we need to get organised,” he added.
“Don’t forget us nurses,” another reader wrote. “Some of us get less than the minimum wage [currently £5.73 per hour for people over 22; £4.77 for those aged 18-21] and when one of my friends in another practice who gets less than that complained to her boss she was told it was all he could afford and she was welcome to look for a job somewhere else.”
Another said that the BVNA should be the union for nurses “but they don’t want to rock the boat”.
Veterinary Practice can’t claim that the responses are representative of the profession as a whole but there is certainly a problem that needs addressing.
This issue includes a response from Dr Shams Mir (page 4) who has been calling for a new body to be set up and support appears to be growing. It could well attract several hundred assistants, maybe more. Whether that body would include a section for nurses or other practice staff has not been made clear.
Veterinary Practice welcomes further comments from readers, especially those without a contract of employment or who feel they have been treated unfairly, or are for or against a new union being set up. Confidence will be respected. Please send comments to email@example.com.