Socialist Worker

Trade unions launch fightback over NHS bill

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2292

After months of public fury over the plot to sell the NHS, trade unions are starting to mobilise against it. The Unite union is calling for health workers to come to parliament to lobby their MPs on Wednesday of next week.

Unite told Socialist Worker that hundreds of members had booked travel from outside London. The lobby will be followed by a mass TUC rally in Westminster.

Chrissy Gardner, a nurse and Unite rep in Bristol, is helping to organise a coach to the lobby.

She said “I think the NHS is something that’s worth saving. With the current bill it will be privatised, simple as that. It will lead to the same credit rating agencies that rated Lehman Brothers overseeing NHS budgets.”

She wants the union to go further in its protests. “It’s great to have a lobby of parliament that will attract trade union activists. But what we need is a national demonstration to get millions on the streets and save the NHS,” she said.

Unite reps are organising a feeder march from St Thomas’ hospital, and the London region of doctors’ British Medical Association is organising another from its headquarters.

This Saturday, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham is set to address a rally in Manchester, organised by the Unison union and the North West TUC.

Nurse and Unison executive member Karen Reissmann said, “This is an opportunity to mobilise the mood of real anger among health workers. People know that the Tories mean privatisation.”

There is set to be a protest in Norwich on the same day. And health workers are mobilising for the march on the Liberal Democrats’ conference in Newcastle the following week.

Last month an influential Tory blogger revealed ministers’ fears that Lansley’s bill would be their poll tax. We need to prove them right.

Does Lansley have any backers left?

The last remaining pillars of support for Andrew Lansley’s bill in the health service were crumbling this week.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP), representing hospital doctors, had been one of the few supporters. But on Monday doctors forced an emergency general meeting to overturn the RCP’s support.

It will now survey its members, who polls show are overwhelmingly against the bill. The Royal College of Surgeons and of Royal College of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians are set to follow within the next few weeks.

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Tue 28 Feb 2012, 18:49 GMT
Issue No. 2292
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