Socialist Worker

Activists debate solidarity for the junior doctors

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2499

Bus drivers at Walworth garage in south London show their solidarity with the junior doctors during the last strike

Bus drivers at Walworth garage in south London show their solidarity with the junior doctors during the last strike (Pic: Chris Kelly)


Over 100 people joined a meeting to build solidarity for junior doctors in central London last night, Tuesday.

The meeting was organised by Unite the Resistance. It came after the BMA doctors' organisation's solid 48-hour walkout last week—and ahead of two ten-hour “full walkouts” on 26 and 27 April.

Jeeves Wijesuriya, who sits on the BMA’s junior doctors’ committee, said, “We’re taking action that we’ve never taken before because we’re in a situation we’ve never faced before.

“This is no longer just a threat to our terms and conditions, it’s become a threat to our patients and the health service.”

The junior doctors are fighting Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s imposition of a dangerous new contract that would rip apart terms and conditions and put patient safety at risk. 

The junior doctors all said that solidarity from trade unionists and public support has been crucial to boosting their confidence to fight. Activists used the meeting to share ideas about how to increase the solidarity.

Junior doctor Sarah Hallet said that the CWU communication workers union had agreed to send out the BMA’s new solidarity posters.

At Soas university, workers and students walked out for two hours during the last strike - and will do the same next time. Sandy Nicoll, the Unison union branch secretary, said, “We’ll walk out, shut the college down and join the demonstration”.

The NUT teachers’ union and the BMA, plan a demonstration in London on the first strike day, 26 April. The NUT is balloting for strikes against funding cuts and the forced academisation of all schools in England,

Kevin Courtney, NUT deputy general secretary, who came to the meeting to give his solidarity, said, “I’m pleased the NUT London region is working with the doctors to organise the demo.

“We’ll be there with placards saying support the junior doctors.”

Cover

The Tories and the right wing media are going on the offensive, claiming that the “full walkouts” during the next strikes will put patients’ lives at risk. Doctors at the meeting stressed that in reality consultants, instead of junior doctors will provide the same level of emergency cover that’s been available during previous walkouts.

In any case, it is the Tories who endanger life through their NHS cuts and privatisation.

Building more solidarity will be crucial to keep junior doctors’ confidence up, get the BMA to call more action and pile pressure onto the Tories.

Imposition of the new doctors' contract is a threat to every trade unionist—and only escalating action will force Hunt to back down.

As FBU union general secretary Matt Wrack said, “Employers wanted to impose shift changes on firefighters, we didn’t agree so they sent out 188 redundancy notices. We responded the only way we could, we balloted and ended with a negotiated settlement

“That’s the only way to win when dealing with people doing this.”

While rank-and-file trade unionists have built solidarity, the TUC and most union leaders have only given rhetorical support. Niki Fitzgerald, a BMA rep at Whipps Cross Hospital in east London, said, “What’s missing sometimes in these meeting is concrete proposals from other speakers.  

“Will you call on your members to join our picket lines on their lunchbreaks? Will you call your members to picket their own workplaces? Will you call on local reps to reach out and send solidarity to hospitals?

Niki added, “Will you put pressure on the TUC to call a national demo to support us?”

The Tories are weak and divided and a mood of opposition is sweeping across Britain—the unions must not let this opportunity pass.

As Niki said, “Stopping the imposition won’t stop privation or defeat austerity—but it could galvanise people into a fight that could do that.”

Other speakers included Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, junior doctor Mona Kamal and Bursary or Bust student nurse campaigner Charli Humm.

March together to support the junior doctors, Tuesday 26 April, 5pm, assemble St Thomas' hospital, London, SE1 7RH for march to the Department of Health. Called by the London region of the NUT and the BMA.

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