Union warns of danger to future of veterinary medicine

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The future of veterinary medicine could be jeopardised by the poor pay and conditions that post-graduate vets receive when they attend the seven UK veterinary schools, a new survey by Unite has revealed.

The crux of the problem is that the schools don’t regard the 250 post-graduate junior vets as employees – even though they are treating animals while on their courses.

Unite, which embraces the British Veterinary Union (BVU), calls for this exploitation to end and that the post-graduate vets are enrolled as employees with the accompanying employment rights.

Liverpool University appeared to be the best place for post-graduate clinical studies, while the Royal Veterinary College, London performed poorly. The other schools are at Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Nottingham.

Dr Shams Mir, Chairman, Professional Advisory Committee, BVU in Unite said: “The issue at the heart of this problem is the deliberate avoidance by the universities to recognise these programmes as work-based programmes and failure to enrol the junior vets as employees.

“The problem is further compounded by the massive disparity in the terms and conditions of these appointments amongst universities – a junior vet in London could be living on as little as £14,000-a-year in one of the world’s most expensive cities.

“It is understood that the universities do this for cost cutting reasons by avoiding employment related tax implications. There is no ethical or legal justification for this approach.

“Becoming a vet is a popular career choice and the degrees take five-to-six years to complete and then there is the post-graduate work which hone their skills in such disciplines as cardiology and neurology.

“The future of veterinary medicine could be jeopardised by the negative attitudes being displayed by the veterinary schools that will put off the brightest and the best – many of whom are in their late twenties with families.”

(The junior vets are registered as interns, junior clinical training scholars and senior clinical training scholars.)

Key findings include:

  • junior clinical training scholars work most of the time in clinics, including out of hours, for as little as £12,500 per year (with free student accommodation) at Glasgow to a maximum of £20,000 at Liverpool (no accommodation).
  • the annual leave allowance (excluding bank holidays) for junior scholars varies from zero at Liverpool to 25 days at Edinburgh. Paid sick leave entitlement varies from zero at Edinburgh to 4-8 weeks at London.  Only Nottingham provide for paid maternity leave; however, at Cambridge this is considered on an individual basis
  • at Liverpool, the senior clinical training scholars are enrolled as employees and enjoy all employment related benefits. The remunerations for the first year vary from the lowest at London (about £15,000) to the highest at Liverpool (about £26,000).
  • the annual holiday entitlement (excluding bank holidays) for senior scholars ranges from the lowest of 17 days at London to the highest of 25 days at Edinburgh.
  • there is no paid sick leave provision at Edinburgh for senior scholars. Paid maternity leave provision is non-existent at Bristol, Edinburgh and London and is considered on an individual basis at Cambridge.

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