Health secretary Jeremy Hunt wants to use a new contract deal with junior doctors to break momentum and push more attacks on the NHS.
But many junior doctors are frustrated that the British Medical Association (BMA) cobbled together the deal with Hunt.
And reinforcements could be joining the NHS battle if the junior doctors fight on. Ambulance workers in the Unison, GMB and Unite unions are being consulted on strikes over low pay.
GPs in the BMA voted last week to be canvassed on handing in mass undated resignation letters and taking industrial action over funding.
And NHS students fighting bursary cuts plan to march on Saturday 4 June.
Aislinn, a junior doctor in London, told Socialist Worker, “Junior doctors can vote no to the deal and join up with the bigger fight against NHS privatisation. It is not too late.”
The BMA has called a “referendum” on the deal between 17 June and 1 July.
Hunt claims the new contract is necessary to bring in “seven day working” to improve patient safety. Yet the NHS already provides 24/7 emergency services. The deal would stretch resources that are already inadequate for five days across seven days.
Aislinn said, “The ‘cost neutrality’ makes it a bad deal. There’s a shortage of 50,000 NHS staff and what the deal’s talking about is not possible until they’re recruited.”
The Tories have said the deal will cut the cost of weekend working by a third. Junior doctor Mona said, “The purpose is to deskill the workforce so it’s cheaper and more attractive for privateers.”
Hunt wanted to make Saturday a regular work day, slash unsocial hours pay and scrap financial penalties on bosses who overwork doctors.
This deal makes Saturdays and Sundays ordinary working days and reduces extra night shift pay from 50 percent to 37 percent. It replaces penalties for overworking doctors with a weaker “guardian role”.
Junior doctors working fewer than one weekend in eight would only be paid normal pay rates. Those working weekends more often will receive a rise of between 3 and 10 percent.
Trade unionists built real solidarity with the strikes, and the BMA and NUT teachers’ union organised a joint demonstration in London.
But most union leaders, in particular the TUC, only gave rhetorical support. That left the BMA more open to pressure to back down.
There is still a mood to fight to save the NHS. And the junior doctors’ dispute is the key link that can force back the Tories.
Junior doctors should campaign to reject the deal—escalating strikes can win.
Plan for direct action
Around 50 health campaigners and junior doctors organised a meeting on fighting NHS privatisation in Peckham, south London, last Sunday.
They plan a mass direct action on Thursday 30 June in central London.
Niki, a junior doctor, told the meeting, “People need to stand up and say, ‘Keep going, we’re right behind you.’
“We need to encourage our leaders to be bold.”
Keeping up the junior doctors’ action is crucial to the wider fight.
If the junior doctors win, it will boost everyone fighting NHS privatisation.
“If they lose, it will give Hunt the green light to steamroll further attacks.”