Junior doctors across England were set to begin a 48-hour strike on Wednesday of next week.
Their British Medical Association (BMA) has escalated its programme of industrial action against Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s imposition of a dangerous new contract.
Junior doctors will hold two ten-hour “full walkouts” on 26 and 27 April, instead of a 48-hour walkout with emergency cover.
Yannis Gourtsoyannis sits on the BMA’s junior doctors’ committee. He told Socialist Worker, “We are in an unprecedented situation, but this move shows the resolve of our members in fighting the imposition.”
There is a thirst for a united fight against the Tories.
Yannis presented a letter, signed by 2,000 junior doctors, to the NUT teachers’ union to show solidarity with teachers’ battle against forced academies.
Delegates at a fringe meeting chanted, “Doctors and teachers, unite and strike!”
NUT conference overwhelmingly backed balloting for strikes against the impact of forced academies and funding cuts (see pages 4&5).
If junior doctors are still in dispute after the NUT ballot, the two groups should strike together.
Yannis said, “There are parallels with the academisation of schools and what’s been happening with privatisation in the NHS.”
Every trade unionist must build solidarity ahead of next week’s walkout and organise delegations to visit picket lines to show their support.
During the last walkout around 1,500 junior doctors and their supporters marched into the City of London. Some 200 people rallied outside central London’s UCH hospital on Euston Road.
It showed what sort of solidarity is possible—and more is needed to win.
Bristol and Bath trades council is encouraging its members to join local picket lines and to take part in a “Big Lunch for the Junior Doctors”.
This will see 15-minute solidarity rallies outside workplaces. Every town and city needs to plan this sort of solidarity action.
David Cameron will fight hard to avoid losing another top cabinet minister after Iain Duncan Smith resigned as work and pensions secretary.
Hunt has already lost one top cabinet position and can’t afford to be seen to lose on this.
Escalation by the BMA and building a united fightback with other workers can force Hunt to back down.
As Yannis said, “Escalation was necessary—and there is room for further escalation if the government don’t come back to the negotiating table.”
But while rank and file trade unionists are organising solidarity, the TUC and most union leaders have only given rhetorical support.
The TUC should call a national demonstration and Unison and the other health unions should immediately ballot their members to join the fight against the Tories’ NHS plans.
The Labour Party leadership needs to come off the fence, unequivocally back the strikes and build solidarity for the junior doctors.
The Tories are in crisis. We must not let this opportunity to strike a blow against austerity pass.
Join the People's Assembly demo on 16 April
Thousands of people will march through central London on 16 April on a demonstration called by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity.
The national protest is a march for health, homes, jobs and education.
Coaches are booked to come from at least 24 towns and cities across Britain.
The march comes as the Tories are divided and there is growing anger at austerity and racism.
The junior doctors’ strikes against unfair contracts have inspired many to fight back.
Tens of thousands of people marched in support of refugees and against Islamophobia at the Stand up to Racism demonstrations earlier this month. Many thousands also protested in London against the Housing Bill.
And the hundreds of thousands of people who voted for Jeremy Corbyn have not gone away.
The protest will be an opportunity to unite those struggles—and build a bigger movement to take out the Tories.
Alarm sounds at south London hospital pay cuts
A well-attended protest was held at St George’s hospital in Tooting, south London, last Thursday. It was organised by the GMB union.
Around 120 cleaning and catering staff protested against a cut in their hours and pay to the sound of a Second World War air raid siren and a bass drum.
Outsourced cleaning and patient catering services, already stretched to breaking point, are to be reduced further following a new deal between St George’s hospital bosses and private contractor Mitie.