Socialist Worker

Soas workers and students walk out in solidarity with striking junior doctors

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2498

Junior doctors and supporters rallied in Manchester as part of todays strike

Junior doctors and supporters rallied in Manchester as part of today's strike (Pic: Tony Harper)


Around 50 workers and students from the School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas) walked out in solidarity with junior doctors this lunchtime, Wednesday.

The walkout was organised to support a British Medical Association (BMA) 48-hour strike against the imposition of a dangerous new contract, which began today.

Ravi, a student at Soas, told Socialist Worker, "We feel it's necessary to support the NHS. If we don't have as many as people as possible then the government will win and dismantle it."

Local branches of the UCU lecturers' union, Unison union and students' union backed the Soas walkout.

It showed what sort of solidarity it is possible, and necessary, in order to defeat the Tories' attacks.

A nursing student shows support for junior doctors

A nursing student shows support for junior doctors (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Chris, a Unison rep and librarian, told Socialist Worker, "The NHS is under threat and we've got to unite to save it.

"The students' union decided to organise a walkout so both unions have supported that. It's really a practice to build a bigger one during the next junior doctors' strikes when the students are back after Easter."

Juan Carlos from the Justice for Cleaners Campaign added, "This is about defending the NHS, education and our rights.”

Protesters assembled outside the Soas main building and marched to join the nearby University and College Hospital (UCH) picket line.

Chants of, "Hunt has got to go" rung out through the local Bloomsbury area. As the march reached the picket lines, junior doctors clapped and cheered to show their support.

Junior doctor Mohammed told Socialist Worker, "We've had really amazing support from other trade unionists such as nurses and teachers.

"This sort of thing really has an impact."

As the dispute has drawn out, more junior doctors are looking to taking action with others. With the NUT teachers' union balloting against the impact of forced academisation and funding cuts, there's real potential for a united fightback.

One teacher, who joined the UCH picket line, told Socialist Worker, "The more we come together, the more influence we'll have.

"We're going through the same things and we're under attack from the same government.We need to strike together."

While rank and file activists have been organising solidarity, the TUC and most union leaders have only given rhetorical support.

The TUC should throw its weight behind the junior doctors. And health unions such as Unison should immediately ballot their members for action.

As the strike approaches its second day, trade unionists must build for more solidarity on tomorrow's picket lines.


Support for junior doctors shows the mood to take on the Tories

Patients support strikers at Londons Whipps Cross Hospital

Patients support strikers at London's Whipps Cross Hospital (Pic: Socialist Worker)


The junior doctors’ picket lines have shown the mood to resist the Tories’ assault on working class people. They were lively and confident—and boosted by support from other trade unionists.

Solidarity was the order of the day at Lewisham Hospital in south east London as teachers and library workers fighting cuts joined the picket line.

Joe, an NUT union rep, said, “As a teacher facing the government’s ideological assault on education it’s important to show solidarity with their fight. The junior doctors’ stand is courageous and inspiring.”

Junior doctors returned the library workers’ solidarity by sending a message to their union meeting.

This pattern of solidarity was repeated across England and was a whiff of what a united fightback could look like.

At Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Hospital supporters bolstered a 100-strong picket line. Junior doctors drew parallels between the teachers’ fight over the impact of academisation and the steel workers’ fight to save their jobs.

A stream of tooting cars, ambulances and fire engines deafened pickets the 40-strong picket line outside the Arrowe Park Hospital in Merseyside. Alex May, who joined the picket line, told Socialist Worker, “The mood on the picket lines was upbeat especially after the NUT teachers’ conference decision.

“Many say they have become politicised by their experiences during the dispute.”

Significant

At Oldham Hospital a significant delegation of teachers with their NUT flags joined a 30-strong picket line for the first time.  Another first was Liz McInnes, Labour MP for Heywood and Middleton and former health worker, joining the strikers.  

But the Labour Party leadership has not fulfilled its pledge to “automatically” back strikes. As one junior doctor in Newcastle said, “The Labour Party must come out and support us unequivocally.”

While Soas workers and student were staging a solidarity walkout, hundreds were also rallying outside the Department of Health (DoH) on Whitehall.

London South Bank University (LSBU) NHS students fighting to save their bursaries had joined the St Thomas’s Hospital picket line opposite parliament. Pickets then marched across Westminster bridge to the DoH where NHS students staged a die-in.

Johanna, a student nurse at LSBU, told Socialist Worker, “Our die-in was to show how the government’s cuts are killing the profession. Without the bursary people like me wouldn’t be able to study—I’ve already got one degree and the debt’s going up.

“But what links us together is that we all want to provide care for patients. This isn’t just about junior doctors but everyone.”

Support has been crucial to keep junior doctors going. As trainee GP Dr Khalid told Socialist Worker, “It’s been really refreshing to have so many people coming to the picket line.”

Activists need to build more ahead of the escalated strikes this month. Nial Durrant, a junior doctor at Tooting Hospital in south London, told Socialist Worker, "It's a big decision.

“People have got to take that seriously—but we know it's something that's got to be done."

Thanks to everyone who sent pictures and reports

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