Up to 17,000 members of the UK veterinary profession could become members of Unite within the next five years following the establishment of the British Veterinary Union (BVU).
Unite, which has a growing health sector, will be able to give veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses, practice managers, support staff and students the additional support and muscle to tackle problems in the workplace, such as pay, contracts, bullying and professional development.
Unite’s General Secretary, Len McCluskey said: “As a progressive trade union, Unite warmly welcomes BVU into the Unite family. The fact that a highly-regarded profession is looking to Unite for support in employment matters is an indication of the validity and relevance of trade unions in 2011 Britain.”
Dr Shams Mir, Chairman, Professional Advisory Committee, British Veterinary Union in Unite said: “Our biggest challenge will be to change the mindset of our profession to address the deep-trenched problems of working conditions and terms of employment for vets and nurses, and safeguarding their professional status. But, most importantly, we have to overcome the sense of fear amongst veterinary professionals in raising legitimate employment issues.”
“Veterinary professionals face the same problems in their working lives as any other health professionals, but never before have vets had a trade union to support and represent them. BVU in Unite is a great opportunity for the profession to develop and expand, and is a goal that many have aspired to for years. We believe that up to 17,000 veterinary professionals could join BVU in Unite in the next five years.”
Dr Mir said research has revealed vets suffer from much higher levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms, while being five times more likely to have suicidal thoughts and four times more likely to commit suicide compared to the general UK population.
He said: “Sadly, according to the most recent Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ survey of the profession, nearly half of the responding vets and nurses said that if they had their time again, they would choose a different profession.
“This is a wake-up call for our profession and we must act to address all the underlying problems leading to this situation.”