Thousands of junior doctors, teachers and their supporters marched from the picket line at St Thomas’ Hospital opposite parliament to Downing Street, today, Tuesday.
The demonstration was organised by the London region of the NUT teachers’ union and the junior doctors’ British Medical Association (BMA) in London.
The demo comes at the end of the BMA’s first ten-hour “full walkout” against Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s imposition of a dangerous new contract.
It was a mass show of strength and solidarity—and there was a real sense that the tide is shifting against the Tories. Anna, a junior doctor at St Thomas’, told Socialist Worker, “We need to look at what the Tory agenda is—it’s privatisation. The public need to support us in order to challenge it.”
The demo was led by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, despite the Labour right’s pressure.
Danny, a junior doctor at Homerton hospital in east London said, “This will make a difference. It’s significant that the leader of the opposition is showing their support.”
Jack, a junior doctor at Barts in east London, said, “The fact we have support has given us strength to stick together and to keep fighting. Everyone in the public sector has been squeezed—and together we can have an impact.”
Ruth, an NUT member in Tower Hamlets, said, “We’ve got a big fight coming over forced academisation. It’s a similar process to what’s happening with the junior doctors.”
Tory plans to force every school in England to become an academy, and devastating funding cuts have caused deep opposition from teachers. Ruth said, “I went to an NUT meeting last night. Normally we have 20 people there—last night we had 150.”
To loud chants of “Hunt has got to go”, the march snaked across the Thames and onto Whitehall.
It wasn’t just teachers who joined the demo. Joanne, a bus worker in the Unite union, said, “There’s a lot of support among members for the junior doctors. How could you not support them? We’ve had our whole regional committee come down to support this.”
RMT rail workers and Unison union local government workers also joined the demo.
As the rally assembled outside Downing Street McDonnell told the crowd, “We said we would be on your side whether it was in parliament, on the picket lines or in the streets. We’ll be with you and we are with you, the heroes and heroines of this struggle.
Some union leaders are beginning to organise practical solidarity for the junior doctors. PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said, “We’ve written to the TUC general secretary and called on the TUC to organise a national day of action for the junior doctors.
“Imagine what it would be like if every union in Britain mobilised to show for the junior doctors.”
Today has shown the power of junior doctors. The BMA should escalate action and other unions need to show real solidarity.
Jenny Leow from the Bursary or Bust campaign said, “You must not stop. Keep striking—together we can win this.”
Every trade unionist and every campaigner has to take the practical steps to build solidarity—invite junior doctors to speak at meetings, organise support delegations, get out on to the streets to show support.
In Tower Hamlets today there were several places where trade unionists came together to show solidarity at lunch time. That needs to be replicated, and on a much bigger and wider scale.
Every trade unionist and campaigner must mobilise for the junior doctors’ picket lines tomorrow. Hunt is there for the taking—now’s the time to deliver the key blow against him.
MANCHESTER: Up to 600 junior doctors and supporters marched through Manchester at lunchtime. Doctors chanted “Jeremy Hunt has got to go", and there were banners from the Unite, Unison and UCU unions as well as students.
Dale, a junior doctor there said, “We're in good spirits - people are realising they have to stand up for the NHS.
“We need Hunt to get over his ego and listen to us."
- There were also large demonstrations in Birmingham, Bristol and other cities
COMMUNICATION WORKERS UNION CONFERENCE: Two coaches of delegates from the CWU union’s conference visited the junior doctors’ picket line at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital.
The strikers from the doctors’ BMA organisation were boosted by the visit as the CWU delegates chanted “Hunt Hunt Hunt – out out out”!
Josh from the BMA said, “Thank you for hearing our side of things and seeing the facts as they are.”
Other junior doctors told Socialist Worker that visit made them feel “very supported”. One said, “It’s good to see the government aren’t getting things all their own way.
Ryan, a CWU delegate from Romford Amal branch said, “It’s very important for every trade unionist to show support and solidarity to other people in their time of need.
“The propaganda portrays the junior doctors as greedy people. It’s not like that. It’s about them working reasonable hours.”
And Imad Temeiza, a visitor from the Palestinian Postal Service Worker Union also visited the picket line. He told Socialist Worker, “I’ve heard a lot about this strike on the TV and the internet. I’ve interested to be here.
“Solidarity is very important. In Palestine we say an injury to one is an injury to all. We’re workers. We fight capitalism. We demand rights for all workers.”
CWU general secretary Dave Ward spoke at the picket line. He said, “We have to make it very clear that we will carry on supporting our junior doctors, our steel workers, our teachers, our postal workers, our telecoms workers.
“We’ve got to come together and get rid of this government, get rid of dodgy Dave, get rid of Boris, get rid of Jeremy Hunt.”