Junior doctors are determined to resist Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt's attack on the NHS and trade union movement. Over 250 people attended a People's Assembly solidarity meeting tonight, Wednesday, in central London.
Yannis Gourtsoyannis from the British Medical Association's (BMA) junior doctors' committee, told the meeting, "The BMA cannot and will not accept imposition and will prevent it. Further action may well be on the horizon."
The BMA is holding a series of consultation meetings after Hunt imposed a dangerous new contract on junior doctors last week.
It is set to decide on further action this Saturday.
Hunt's imposition has laid down the gauntlet to the whole trade union movement. If the Tories get away with it, other groups of workers will be attacked next.
Yannis said, "The imposition represents a new phase in the struggle. It's now clear that this is a zero sum game – either they win or we win."
Hunt has ramped up the pressure. Health Education England bosses told NHS Foundation Trusts that they would be denied training funding if they did not impose the new contract.
But a united fight can push back Hunt's attack and deal a blow against Tory austerity.
The junior doctors' walkouts on 12 January and 10 February became a focus for anger against austerity. Trade unionists joined the picket lines and NHS students fighting to save their bursaries walked out in solidarity for an hour.
Danielle Tiplady, a leading student nurse, told the meeting, "In December 500 of us protested, in January 5,000 of us demonstrated. And we walked out for an hour to show solidarity with junior doctors.
"Unfortunately for Jeremy Hunt we won't stop until we are listened to."
Trade unionists have come out in support of the BMA in the last week. A number of union leaders have signed the solidarity statement initiated by Unite the Resistance.
Dave Ward, CWU union general secretary, told the meeting, "It's incumbent on us to get behind the junior doctors."
Alex Kenny, an NUT teachers' union national executive member, said that the BMA had "100 percent backing" from the teachers' union.
The BMA needs to escalate action, and the TUC and union leaders need to give real support. If the BMA calls further action, other unions need to mobilise for mass pickets – activists should fight to coordinate their own disputes with the doctors.
Yannis said, "There are some of us who are realising that junior doctors hold the fuse that could potentially ignite the health worker movement in defence of the NHS."
Every trade unionist needs to get behind the BMA and Unison should immediately ballot its members in the NHS for action.