The British Medical Association (BMA) has agreed to negotiations with the Tories over a dangerous new junior doctors’ contract that’s being imposed in August.
In a sign of mounting pressure, Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt agreed to “pause” imposing the new contract for five days from Monday. But Hunt has set the parameters of the negotiations on Saturday pay and unsocial hours.
Niki, a BMA rep in east London, told Socialist Worker, “I don’t feel like five days is enough to achieve much. The lifting of the imposition is only temporary and they’ve said it will be on Saturday pay, which they wrongly say is the only outstanding issue.
“It seems like they’re saying come negotiate and we’ll take more from you rather than talking about the issues doctors care about.”
Hunt’s toxic contract rips apart terms and conditions, discriminates against women and put patients lives at risk. Robust financial penalties on hospital bosses overworking making junior doctors go and Saturday would be a normal working day.
Niki said, “For us it’s about the regulation of dangerous hours and Saturday should not be there in black and white as a week day.
“Saturday should be recognised as a day of rest for all workers”.
Any move by the Tories is a sign of weakness—but now is the time to press home the advantage not break momentum. Instead of intricate manoeuvres to destabilise action, more action is needed now. Trade unionists need to flood junior doctors with solidarity and more union leaders need to give more than just rhetorical support.
Niki said, “They could be opening these negotiations up to try and save face. The other possibility is that they want to lure us into negotiations and then make us look ‘unreasonable’ so we lose support.”
There is clearly a section of the BMA’s senior leadership that is nervous about escalating industrial action, particularly to an indefinite strike. But Hunt has been intransigent because he knows this is a critical moment.
The Tories wants to slash health workers’ pay and terms and conditions to soften the NHS up for more privatisation.
The BMA need to stand firm and build on the successful “full walkouts” last month and call more hard-hitting strikes without large gaps between them.
Niki said, “I myself will still be preparing for further strikes, because I don’t think this will be enough.”