BMA Council Report May 2019

Apologies for the lateness of this report – Junior Doctors Conference and issues around the junior doctors’ contract and lots of student issues have slowed us down.

The meeting on 15th May was reasonably productive. There was significant anger from some members of Council at the recent leaks surrounding spousal expenses and the sexism allegations in the press. We do not share this. We applaud the bravery of those who have spoken out against poor treatment and rotten cultures in the BMA.

We received a confidential update on member support services, which the BMA is reviewing in detail. This includes the First Point of Contact, Employment Advisers and legal support given to members, which we aim to continually improve. The Broad Left welcomes the review, and hopes it will highlight solutions for the problems members face when engaging with us.

We discussed guidelines for the process of selecting members to European Medical Organisations. This aims to make it a more accountable process. The highlights are: a selection committee would select suitable candidates based on role criteria, representatives must demit office if they are no longer a member of the relevant branch of practice, and that records will be kept of meeting purpose and expense. Council approved these guiding principles with immediate effect.

The Working Together Better task group has been considering a definition of the role “Chief Officer”, which is a term frequently used in the organisation’s articles and byelaws but with no universal understanding of what this means. A definition was proposed to council in a paper, however concerns were raised as to the wording. It was also considered that it would only apply for a short time – until the completion of a review by the appointments oversight sub-committee. Some concerns were expressed that defining a “Chief Officer” beyond the actual role title could lead to power grabbing and increased control by a few senior elected members. It was resolved that the definition would be altered to reflect comments made by members, and subsequently recirculated to council for consideration at a later date.

A motion was brought to council to change the agreed process for hustings at the ARM for the roles of Treasurer, Chair of the Representative Body and Deputy RB Chair to include questions to candidates to be permitted at the hustings. The proposer explained that the motion aimed to give us a better chance of getting the best people into roles, by allowing for a more accountable and informative election process.

Several concerns were raised by council members including issues with time, and that not all candidates would perform well under questioning (and indeed this may put some people off applying). A representative from the ARM agenda committee explained that it would be very difficult to facilitate extra time for questions, and that we would potentially lose a significant amount of debates as a result. They were also concerned that long hustings may disengage representatives.
The motion was not carried, and it was decided that hustings would take place as agreed by Council in January.

Council received an oral and written update from the Audit and Risk Committee.

A discussion regarding membership of LNCs was held in private. Current rules can exclude non-BMA members from LNCs due to the BMA staff and resources they rely on. A paper presented by the Secondary Care Forum was agreed upon. We will update this report at such a time as the resolutions from this discussion are made public.

Another confidential update was made to Council about work ongoing to improve the code of conduct and resolutions processes. This is very necessary work in the context of both tight political control and increasing awareness of sexism in the BMA. Confidence must increase if the system is to work well.

Council received a brief update from Jeeves Wijesuriya, chair of JDC, about the junior doctor contract negotiations. He shared with council the successes so far which include shared parental leave, child bereavement leave, and money for junior doctor facilities. As negotiations are still ongoing there was not much more that could be shared at this time.

A discussion was had about how best to approach two unfilled council seats, following the resignation of two members. It was decided to leave the national UK seat unfilled (given that the total number of council members is comfortable above the minimum at present), and that the next highest candidate from the West Midlands region is elected as a non-voting member for the remainder of the Council term. Although we would want as many voting members representing regions as is possible, the cost of running new elections at each resignation is prohibitive.

Council received a confidential update from the board of directors, addressing matters of finance and governance. Many broad left members spoke up in support of transparency and accountability in this area and called for investigation into previous lapses in internal governance. The funding for Spousal expenses and the Lock Club has now ended, but we feel there are further questions to be asked.

We keep working hard on Council and in various other roles in the BMA. Working with some other members, we have assurances that Place of Work Accredited Representatives (POWARs) and the training for that will be reintroduced. This is one step towards the rank-and-file trade unionism we need.

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