Junior doctors have shown that they are determined to resist the imposition of a dangerous new contract.
The British Medical Association’s (BMA) 48-hour walkout this week marked an important escalation in its battle with Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Picket lines were lively throughout the two days—and crucially solidarity has begun to pour in (see below).
Hannah was on the 40-strong Royal London Hospital picket line in east London.
“The imposition has been a real blow and made me think about leaving medicine after seven years.”
“But this strike has made me feel more strongly that we need to fight the contract with industrial action.”
Many junior doctors said that Hunt’s imposition was a “blow”, but going on strike has boosted their confidence.
Hunt claims it’s necessary to bring in “seven day working” in order to improve patient care.
Really he wants to smash health workers’ pay and terms and conditions to soften the NHS up for privatisation.
On the Homerton Hospital picket line Dr Linpower said, “I’m here because I love the NHS and I’m going to fight for it.
What’s happening to junior doctors is just the start—they’ll go after other workers’ contracts.
“They’ll stretch the NHS to the point of breaking—then private companies will come in and buy up the weekend services.”
Hunt’s imposition has also thrown down the gauntlet to the trade union movement.
As Patrick, a junior doctor at King’s Hospital in south London, said,“All trade unionists need to reflect on that scary precedent—this will happen to all health workers and others across the board next.”
This week’s walkout became a focal point for anger against Tory austerity—and showed the potential for a united fightback.
Patrick added, “I hope we all now join the dots and step up the struggle against these attacks.”
As Katey, a BMA rep in Scarborough, said, “We need to keep striking to show them were not giving in.”
Activists now need to keep up the momentum and build on the solidarity links that have been forged ahead of the next 48-hour walkout on 6 April.
The TUC should build on the examples of solidarity this week. Along with the BMA they should call a demonstration on the next strike days.
Unison and the other health union should immediately ballot their members for action.
They should at least call on their members to join the junior doctors’ picket lines.
The junior doctors have shown that they are determined to fight—the trade union movement must makes sure they win.
Protests show the potential for a united fightback
More than 1,500 junior doctors and their supporters marched from east London into the City of London at the end of the walkout yesterday, Thursday.
The day before around 200 junior doctors and their supporters rallied outside the University College Hospital (UCH) in central London and marched on the BBC.
Solidarity from trade unionists was crucial to keeping up junior doctors’ confidence during the walkout.
At UCH junior doctors were joined by Aslef train drivers’ union members, PCS union members, RMT members, UCU, NUT, Unison and a CWU union postal workers’ delegation.
The RMT union national executive came down to show solidarity.
Sean Hoyle, the RMT president, said, “We’re contacting over 200 branches to ask them to make contact with BMA reps and invite them into their meetings.”
The protests show what can be achieved.
Jackie Applebee, a BMA member in east London was on the march in east London.
She explained, “We’ve got really good links between the junior doctors and trade unionists in the area, which has given people real confidence.
“The call for the demonstration also came from the BMA and our reps have been key to organising this.”
Activists need to get junior doctors into meetings, build support groups and pressure the unions to do more.
Solidarity across the country
This week’s strike was the first of three planned 48-hour walkouts by the British Medical Association (BMA).
Hugh, a junior doctor, said, “It’s made people very angry and there’s a bit of digging in since the imposition.
“There’s still huge support from top to bottom among junior doctors.”
They received messages of solidarity and workplace collections from the Unison, NUT and Usdaw unions.
This pattern was repeated around the country. In Leeds over 70 junior doctors and their supporters braved the torrential rain on Wednesday morning.
Across the Pennines, strikers at Manchester’s Trafford General Hospital strikers were solid and determined. It was the first to open as an NHS hospital in July 1948—and is currently under threat of closure.
Their strike held strong into the second day. Around 50 doctors joined the picket line outside the Manchester Royal Infirmary. And at least another 50 picketed in Nottingham before holding a “Meet the Doctors” event in the city centre.
Simon, a junior doctor in Manchester said, “I feel very supported by those who’ve shown solidarity with us. We need to show it’s not just doctors versus the government—it’s a fight for the whole public sector.”
Around 30 people met to discuss building solidarity for the junior doctors in London last Saturday.
It resolved to camapign hard for wider solidarity for the next strike on 6-7 April.
Unite the Resistance has also called a solidarity meeting for 12 April.
Speakers include FBU union general secretary Matt Wrack, and Green Party leader Natalie Bennett.