The appeal of a Veterinary Union

When we asked vets about what they thought of the idea of a Veterinary Union we had no idea how polarized their views and opinions would be. Of the 500 vets that took part in a Vetspanel survey almost half where in favour of the idea/concept of a Veterinary Union, while 36% where against and the rest where either undecided or simple did not care.

Up to there fair enough, but what was surprising was the clear income/age divide between those in favour and those against. Those in favour of the idea of a union where younger and had an annual income of about £37,000 while those against had incomes in excess of £52,000. Quite a few vets indicated that a union would help those vets that are employed, or assistant vets, that currently are “exploited”, “overworked” and/or “underpaid”. Some went as far as to say that “Many vets are lousy employers” or that “Something needs to be done to improve working conditions of employed vets”. What is clear is that many vets currently feel that working conditions are not ideal and that junior vets need more protection. It’s therefore not surprising that those in favour of a Union are also those most stressed. So they are not only suffering from bad working condition, but these are also affecting them emotionally and psychologically. Consequently about 40% of these vets are considering leaving the profession (compared to only 26% amongst those against the idea of a Union)

Although some of these vets did acknowledge the BVA/RCVS , they also considered that they were not doing as good a job as they should. Some vets even went so far to say “BVA and RCVS seem to be against the average vet”.

On the other hand those against a Union are older and tend to be practice owners. Some said that vet practices are “private sector business/small practices where the ideals of working conditions etc just don’t seem to apply”. They are also in favour of job mobility (“If you don’t like your boss, move on!”). Generally they tend to agree that the BVA/RCVS currently protects the interests of all vets so a union would be unnecessary and just bureaucratic and expense and overall just a plainly bad idea.

The high stress rates amongst the younger vets, and their associated desire to leave the profession, is a warning sign that should be carefully looked at. The role of the BVA and RCVS should maybe be revised, or their remit extended as currently it’s perceived that they are not adequately protecting the vets most at risk of being exploited and of leaving the profession.