Socialist Worker

Solidarity pours in for junior doctors as they start a 48-hour strike against new contracts

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2498

A 120-strong solidarity march with junior doctors in Brighton

A 120-strong solidarity march with junior doctors in Brighton (Pic: Paddy Nielsen)


Junior doctors in England have walked out against Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt's imposition of a dangerous new contract, today, Wednesday.

The 48-hour walkout builds on the British Medical Association's (BMA) successful two-day strike in March and comes ahead of more hard-hitting action later this month.

Striking doctors won solidarity from trade unionists across England.

Around 120 people joined a solidarity march with the junior doctors in Brighton.

Richard Buckwell visited picketing junior doctors in Nottingham. He told Socialist Worker, “There was stronger support today, definitely linked to the Tories’ general crisis. There was an NUT union banner on the picket line for the first time.

“And the trades council last night agreed to set up a support group with the junior doctors.”

Growing resistance to the Tories made pickets and supporters optimistic.

A striker at Leeds General Infirmary

A striker at Leeds General Infirmary (Pic: Neil Terry)


Doctors at Manchester Royal Infirmary were in a defiant mood. Medical student and BMA activist Emma said, “The contract is completely unsafe for doctors and patients.

“It’s an ideological attack on the NHS. I’d like to see further escalation from the BMA – and other public sector workers, especially teachers, need to join us.”

Sarah was on strike at Hackney’s Homerton Hospital in east London. She told Socialist Worker, “We can win this. The government are taking on us and the teachers.”

Confident

Trade unionists joined confident and lively picket lines to show solidarity across London.

Fourteen year old Afghab was just one of those visiting pickets at Homerton Hospital. “I made my placards to bring here two days ago,” she said.

“It’s so important that the junior doctors win.”

Katherine, a junior doctor there, said, "The momentum and the anger is still there and there's an appetite for escalation.”

Teachers support junior doctors in Nottingham

Teachers support junior doctors in Nottingham (Pic: Richard Buckwell)


Emily was on a 30-strong picket line at the Royal London Hospital in east London. "We're keeping the momentum up,” she said. “The vast majority of people I've spoken to want to keep going and escalate.

"We're willing to do whatever it takes to stop this."

The BMA plans two ten-hour “full walkouts” on 26 and 27 April. That means consultants, not junior doctors, will provide emergency care. Katherine said there would be a “good turnout” on the strike days.

Striker Ashley added, "It's different now because they have released details of the new contract.

"There's a lot of heavy handed and unreasonable terms. Some would discriminate against women and part time workers."

This has hardened junior doctors' determination to fight.

Students at London South Bank University preparing to meet striking junior doctors

Students at London South Bank University preparing to meet striking junior doctors (Pic: Chris Newlove)


Junior doctor Holly Randall at King’s College Hospital in south London said there was a "renewed vigour" among strikers since details of the contract were released.

She said, "The government clearly doesn't value women if they think we should be paid less than men for doing the job. "I'm not sure I'll continue in the job if they get away with this."

Hunt claims that the new contract is necessary to bring in "seven day working" in the NHS in order to improve patient safety.

Emergency

But health workers already provide "emergency care"24/7and work long hours, including nights and weekends.

In reality, the Tories want to smash health workers' pay, terms and conditions to soften the NHS up for privatisation.

Strikers at Homerton Hospital

Strikers at Homerton Hospital (Pic: Guy Smallman)


As Emily said, "The NHS is already on the brink. It isn't just about junior doctors, it's about the nurses and everyone else.

"We already have staffing rotas running on 50 percent of what we need. This new contract will make the staffing crisis worse."

Katherine agreed. "With the lack of real safeguards on working dangerous hours, the worst manifestation will be doctors being too tired to do the jobs,” she said.

"I fundamentally don't trust the government not to overwork me."

Hunt has dug his heals in and will only back down if he is forced to back down.

But the junior doctors' dispute is acting as a focus for people's anger at Tory attacks on the NHS and austerity.

Unison union branch secretary John McLoughlin brought solidarity to the Royal London. He said, "The Tories are being exposed over the steel crisis and the tax dodging revelations.

"Trade unionists need to up the level of resistance and the best way to do that is to get behind the junior doctors."

Striking junior doctors in Huddersfield, west Yorkshire

Striking junior doctors in Huddersfield, west Yorkshire (Pic: Martin Jones)


Anna, a student nurse, had joined the picket line in solidarity ahead of a planned die-in at the Department of Health at lunchtime.

"This is a fundamental attack on the NHS," she said.

"They're going after the junior doctors and our bursaries because they want to bring in a two-tier health service."

Junior doctors across London are planning lunchtime rallies and workers and students at the School of Oriental and African Studies will walkout in solidarity this lunchtime.

Thanks to everyone who sent reports and pictures


London: Unite the Resistance solidarity meeting
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 touniteresist.org


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