FIVE doctors who claimed the British Medical Association racially discriminated against them settled their case yesterday for £130,000.
Dr Fahtima Farook, from Cardiff, Dr Sheedhar Vasdo Vaidya, from the East Midlands, Dr Kumar Ghosh, from Manchester, Vijay Jadhav, from Kingston upon Thames, and Vanlila Bera, from Birmingham, agreed the settlement just hours before their case was due to be heard at a Manchester employment tribunal.
The doctors claimed the BMA failed to offer them legal assistance in cases of racial discrimination at work.
The BMA yesterday denied liability but said it had decided to pay £130,000, shared between the five, to "draw a line" under the case.
Dr Farook, who lives in Cyncoed, said she hoped the settlement would lead to reforms in the BMA which would make it easier for future generations of doctors from ethnic minorities to fight discrimination.
She stressed her complaint had not been against BMA Wales and that her problems of bullying, racial discrimination and harassment occurred while working for an English NHS Trust, which she cannot name for legal reasons.
She said, "As far as we are concerned the BMA is a valued organisation and we need it and there was no point attempting to destroy the organisation. We thought a settlement was the best way forward for all parties."
She said she now wanted the BMA to "get its act together".
She said, "I didn't know the legal definitions of harassment or bullying - what I wanted from the BMA was to sit down with them and try and differentiate what was what."
Dr Farook said she contacted the BMA for help on 17 occasions during the last four months of her time with the trust where she worked.
"That harassment and bullying was going on under the nose of the BMA. I hope it doesn't happen again."
Ghazan Mahmood, the barrister who represented four of the doctors, said of the case, "This was not about the money, it was about the fact that doctors will fight back if they are being badly treated by their union.
"It's no coincidence that very highly qualified people are deciding to take a stand. They are pushing forward because they have put up with years of mental abuse."
He said the BMA had a "closed mind" when it came to backing claims of racial discrimination.
"Each of the doctors had agreed that the BMA had adopted, whether subconsciously or consciously, a policy of not supporting doctors when they alleged racial discrimination against their employers or vocational bodies."
He said each of the doctors had turned to the BMA for assistance because they alleged they had been discriminated against, mistreated or harassed.
"The BMA would not come to their help," he said.
Birchfield Solicitors, which represented four of the doctors, said in a statement, "In essence, it is alleged that the BMA has adopted a policy (whether consciously or sub-consciously) of not supporting overseas doctors in claims of racial discrimination.
Yesterday, the BMA said the five doctors had agreed to withdraw their claims. Its secretary, Jeremy Strachan, said, "Although the BMA was advised that we had good defences in all of these cases, we welcome the opportunity to draw a line under them in view of the potential adverse publicity, costs and uncertainty that inevitably characterise litigation of this kind."
All parties paid their own legal costs, the BMA added.