Junior doctors’ strikes against new contracts are back on, the British Medical Association (BMA) announced on Monday of this week.
They are set to provide only “emergency care” for 24 hours from 8am on Tuesday of next week and for 48 hours from 8am on Tuesday 26 January.
A “full withdrawal of labour” is set for Wednesday 10 February.
This deepens the political crisis facing Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Junior doctors are fighting plans to impose new contracts that attack terms and conditions—and put safety at risk.
The BMA suspended strikes last month for talks. But the Tories refuse to budge on any key issues.
The right wing press is already pumping out propaganda about “greedy” doctors. And Hunt claimed the main sticking point was weekend pay.
Nicki, a junior doctor in east London, told Socialist Worker, “The main sticking point is safeguards on hours—if the government can’t move on that we have to strike.”
Junior doctors already work long hours, but the new contracts would remove mandatory safeguards introduced in the 1990s amid fears for patient safety.
“This is about us making sure we can deliver patient care—we can’t accept a contract that’s not safe,” she said.
Hunt claims the new contracts are part of improving patient care by bringing in “seven day working”.
In reality, most NHS services already run seven days a week.
The Tories want to smash workers’ pay and terms and conditions to soften up the NHS for privatisation.
Hunt offered them an 11 percent rise on “plain hours” last year.
But most junior doctors rely on unsocial hours pay for half of their take-home pay—so it would still amount to up to a 30 percent cut.
After the BMA suspended the December walkouts the Tories announced plans to scrap NHS bursaries and replace them with loans.
But these attacks could fuel growing resistance from health workers.
Nicki said, “The feeling among junior doctors is that there’s an all-out assault on the NHS—whether that’s doctors or other health workers.”
The BMA’s announcement comes as students are preparing to march against bursary cuts (see below).
“Lots of junior doctors are planning to march in solidarity with the student nurses,” said Nicki. “We’re showing this is part of a united fight.”
Yannis Gourtsoyannis sits on the BMA’s junior doctors’ committee. He told Socialist Worker, “We live in times of austerity and the government feels compelled to attack NHS workers.
“But people across the NHS are waking up to their political agenda—there’s no doubt that our resistance can make them fail in 2016.”