Junior doctors were set to walk out against the imposition of a dangerous new contract on Wednesday and Thursday.
This is the British Medical Association’s (BMA) second 48-hour walkout in its battle with Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Junior doctors were buoyed by the solidarity they received during their walkout last month and by the BMA’s decision to escalate industrial action. They will hold two ten-hour “full walkouts” on 26 and 27 April, instead of a 48-hour strike with emergency care.
Megan, a junior doctor in Manchester, told Socialist Worker, “People are confident and they’re glad that there’s an escalation coming. When the action’s not the same over and over, people can see more of a point in it.
“People also want more dates before the next strikes on 26 and 27 April.”
Hunt hardened junior doctors’ determination ahead of this Wednesday’s walkout after NHS bosses released the details of the new contract.
The Department of Health’s (DoH) own equality impact admitted that the new contract would “impact disproportionately on women”, but said the contract could be “comfortably justified”.
Megan said, “There was a new lease of anger after Hunt’s announcement. Lots of people are angry about the gender inequality—they’ve said that it will affect the pay gap and that’s just the way it is.”
If Hunt gets away with imposing the new contract on junior doctors, the Tories will come after other groups of workers. But the Tories are deeply divided and workers have an opportunity to strike a shattering blow to austerity.
Senior Tory MP Sarah Wollaston this week attacked Hunt and called his tactics “completely unreasonable”, although she also attacked the BMA.
That’s why it’s crucial for trade unionists to build more solidarity.
At Soas university in central London activists are planning a solidarity walkout at lunchtime and then to join the nearby University and College Hospital (UCH) picket line.
NHS students fighting to save their bursaries are also planning a solidarity walkout and to hold a “die in” outside the Department of Health in central London.
In Bristol the trades council is urging people to hold 15 lunchtime solidarity protests outside workplaces.
This sort of solidarity needs to be deepened and that’s why it’s significant that a number of places have set up junior doctors support groups. The TUC should call a national demonstration and Unison and the other health unions should immediately ballot their members.
The Labour Party also needs fulfil its leadership’s pledge to automatically back strikes and throw itself into building solidarity.
The Tories will only back down if they are forced to—that means more and escalating strikes and building solidarity.
‘The new contract is not fair or safe for doctors’
Megan, a junior doctor in Manchester, spoke to Socialist Worker
“Our action on 26 and 27 April won’t adversely affect patients. There will still be ‘emergency care’, provided by consultants, and only ‘elective surgery’ that’s not life threatening will be cancelled.
“The reality is that the new contract is not fair or safe for junior doctors or patients. If the contract were to go through, that would lead to poorer patient safety.
“The new contract doesn’t have the same safeguards on junior doctors working a dangerous amount of hours.
“They say take a break during driving—why shouldn’t you take a break before surgery when you’re making life changing decisions?
“This is just another attack on the NHS that will lead to less junior doctors in Britain—we already have 9 percent of places unfilled. That will mean longer waiting times and a lower standard of health care.
“This is about undermining the NHS so they can privatise it.”
Tuesday 12 April, 7pm,
Speakers include junior doctors, FBU union general secretary Matt Wrack, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett and NUT deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney
Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, 235 Shaftesbury Ave, London WC2H 8EP. Go to uniteresist.org