Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt was rocked by two solid junior doctors’ walkouts last week—now is the time to press home the advantage.
Sarah Hallet, who sits on the British Medical Association’s (BMA) junior doctors’ committee, said, “It was as well, if not better, supported than the previous industrial action.”
Even NHS bosses were forced to admit that nearly 80 percent of junior doctors struck on both days.
Support was key to keeping junior doctors’ confidence up in the face of right wing propaganda about the “full walkout” putting patients’ lives at risk.
Danny, a junior doctor at the Homerton in east London, said, “It’s clear that the public is fully behind it, which has bolstered junior doctors.
“The more stubborn Hunt is becoming, the angrier we’re becoming—if they don’t deescalate this situation, it will escalate.”
At the University College Hospital (UCH) in particular the picket lines were larger because junior doctors and health workers systematically built the strike on the ward.
The potential for others to row in to support the doctors’ fight is clear.
Some unions, such as the NUT teachers’ union, are beginning to offer practical solidarity. On the first day of the strike up to 5,000 junior doctors, teachers and their supporters marched in London and 600 marched in Manchester.
Sarah said, “It was also incredible seeing support from teachers and other trade unionists on the demonstration. The turnout was tremendous and the feeling was one of solidarity and standing up to these changes.”
In Tower Hamlets in east London junior doctors and trade unionists built on their successful 1,500-strong march with lunchtime solidarity walkouts. These were called through a junior doctors’ support group, set up BMA activists and others, after the last strike
Kambiz Boomla, a GP and BMA member in east London, told Socialist Worker, “We had seven events across the Tower Hamlet borough with a few hundred people taking part. That’s more than we would have got if we’d had everyone march to the hospital.
“We have a network of BMA activists and then built it among shop stewards in other unions.”
The union leaders have been slow to act to encourage solidarity. But there is also a real risk that a long gap between strikes can waste the momentum and dilute the enthusiasm that picket lines and protests have brought to the dispute.
Every trade unionist must build solidarity networks for the junior doctors—and the BMA should escalate action to press home the advantage.