Socialist Worker

Junior doctors vote to step up action as Hunt digs in

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2496

Junior doctors and supporters march into the City of London during the last walkout

Junior doctors and supporters march into the City of London during the last walkout (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Junior doctors are stepping up their fight against Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s imposition of a dangerous new contract.

The British Medical Association (BMA) voted to “move towards escalating industrial action” on Friday of last week.

The decision comes after a successful 48-hour strike on 10 February and ahead of two further planned walkouts on 6 and 26 April.

Niki, a junior doctor in east London, told Socialist Worker, “Many junior doctors wanted to see some form of escalation.

“There’s no point taking action if it’s not effective and this could be a way of moving forward.”

David Cameron will do everything he can not to lose another cabinet minister. Hunt will only back down if he’s defeated—escalating industrial action is crucial to make sure that happens.

The BMA had not confirmed what form the escalation will take, but it has been discussing two options. Niki said, “We could either call a full walkout or more days of action.”

A “full walkout” would mean withdrawing “emergency cover” that’s been available during the last strikes. Niki said, “There are a lot of concerns about patient safety, but a full walkout would still be safe with consultants providing cover.”

She added, “Increasing frequency would be useful.”

A week-long walkout with emergency cover would be more hard-hitting than a one day “full walkout”.

Withdrawing

Hunt’s imposition has thrown down the gauntlet to the whole union movement. If the Tories get away with it, they will attack other groups of workers.

But the mood is beginning to turn. With attacks on teachers in the budget, there’s the potential for united action.

During the last walkout around 1,500 junior doctors and their supporters marched from east London into the City financial district. And 200 rallied outside University College Hospital in central London.

At Homerton Hospital in Hackney, east London, they held their first junior doctors’ support group meeting to plan solidarity for the next walkout.

Manchester trades council is also setting up local support groups and planning solidarity on the day.

Every town and city should be organising now to have mass support for the pickets on 6 April.

The North West TUC conference last Sunday passed an emergency motion calling for support for local protests and a regional demonstration.

This is a significant step. The TUC should call a national demonstration and Unison and the other health unions should immediately ballot their members for action.

Niki said, “On the east London march there was a lot of appetite for escalating action from other trade unions. There is one problem—that’s the Tory government.

“We need to find ways to work to come out together.”

Junior Doctors—It’s everyone’s fight. Unite the Resistance public meeting, Tuesday 12 April, 7pm, Bloomsbury Baptist Church, 235 Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2H 8EP

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