The fight for the NHS is on as junior doctors were set to walk out on Tuesday of next week in the first of three planned walkouts.
The British Medical Association (BMA) members voted by 98 percent for strikes and 99 percent for action short of strikes, on a turnout of 76 percent.
They are fighting Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s plans to impose new contracts that would rip apart their terms and conditions and put patient safety at risk.
Yannis Gourtsoyannis sits on the BMA’s junior doctors’ committee. He told Socialist Worker, “If you’re in a local trade union—in or out of the NHS—or a campaign, talk to your colleagues.
“We want you to support our picket lines and stand with junior doctors to defend the NHS.”
Their fight is about more than just an up to 40 percent pay cut. Rory Hicks, a junior doctor from Manchester, explained, “The NHS is at such a point that the new contracts would break us.
“They would totally demoralise the workforce and push junior doctors out of the NHS. A demoralised and short-staffed workforce isn’t one that provides safe healthcare for patients.”
Solidarity is beginning to pour in. A number of general secretaries of the Trade Union Coordinating Group (TUCG) of left wing unions officially wrote to junior doctors pledging their solidarity.
Ealing NUT teachers invited a junior doctor to their union branch meeting—others should do the same.
Large picket lines on the day can boost doctors’ confidence—six pickets is a recommendation not a legal requirement.
Labour has called for Acas talks without Hunt, but the unions can’t afford to fudge this dispute.
East London GP Jackie Turner said, “It’s really important that we all support the grassroots of the BMA so there’s pressure on the BMA hierarchy not to back down.”
“Otherwise,” said Yannis, “the government will just step over the defeated carcass of the BMA and come for other health workers next.”
Doctors will only provide “emergency cover” next Tuesday, followed by full walkouts on 8 and 16 December.
Every trade unionist and campaigner needs to build solidarity now—and put pressure on health unions to join the walkouts.