Junior doctors are set to walk out next Wednesday in the first of three planned 48-hour strikes against the imposition of a dangerous new contract.
The British Medical Association (BMA) has also set 6 April and 26 April for further strikes after the 9 March walkout.
This marks a serious escalation and is a fight for the whole trade union movement. If the Tories get away with imposition on the junior doctors, they will be encouraged to do it to others.
Nicki, a junior doctor in east London, told Socialist Worker, “At Whipps Cross Hospital we’ll have picket lines and events like last time. I want to encourage people to come and support us.”
The junior doctors’ strikes in January and February became a focus for anger against Tory austerity.
Solidarity is beginning to pour in from health workers and other trade unionists.
The NUT teachers’ union branch in Ealing, west London, has already had a junior doctor at its meeting. Branch secretary Stefan Simms told Socialist Worker, “There’s overwhelming support from NUT members.
“They understand that junior doctors aren’t just fighting for themselves but for the NHS.”
Tory budget cuts and privatisation are plunging the NHS further into the biggest crisis in its history.
New figures last week revealed the scale of the staffing crisis gripping the NHS.
They showed 23,443 doctors and nursing posts remain unfilled, which includes 6,207 doctors’ places.
Hunt claims that the new contracts are needed to bring in “seven-day working in the NHS” in order to improve patient safety.
But the NHS already provides “emergency care” 24/7 and junior doctors work long hours, including nights and weekends.
Hunt wants to smash health workers’ pay, terms and conditions in order to soften the NHS up for privatisation.
But a united fight can push back these attacks.
One London ambulance worker told Socialist Worker, “All my crew mates are very supportive of the junior doctors.
“We already work 24/7 and know that an attack on unsocial hours will affect us.
“If the junior doctors didn’t fight, they would come for us next.”
Activists are going around workplaces with petitions and organising solidarity cards to take down to the picket lines.
But the TUC and other union leaders need to organise practical solidarity. Unison and the other health unions should immediately ballot their members.
Well over 100 people crowded into a public meeting on Wednesday of last week to defend the A&E at King George Hospital in Iford, east London.
Local Labour MP Wes Streeting organised the meeting.
He told the meeting that hospital bosses have drawn up plans to try to start shutting the A&E overnight.
This would be a prelude to closure. King George is part of a trust that is crippled by huge PFI debts.
The diverse audience at last week’s meeting was determined to stop the closure of the A&E.
Several people spoke to loud applause of the need to support the junior doctors in their fight for the NHS.
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