PRIME Minister Tony Blair and Chancellor Gordon Brown have declared war on the public services and their staff, with closures, cuts, redundancies and pay cuts.
Workers and professional staff in the National Health Service, education, local government and the civil service are demanding that their trade unions organise their counter-attack.
Junior doctors, having already held a 12,000-strong demonstration in London and a lobby of Parliament, are meeting today for the British Medical Association’s (BMA’s) Junior Doctors Conference (JDC).
At the top of their agenda is the fight against the new Medical Training Application Service (MTAS) that is offering 18,500 training jobs for 34,250 junior doctors, leaving 16,000 without places.
At the BMA’s JDC today a motion from the Northern Region describes MTAS as a ‘failure’ and the West Midlands one calls for ‘the abolishment of MTAS’.
Representatives at the JDC also recognise the damage being done to the NHS by privatisation and a motion from North Thames attacks ‘CATS and similar independent sector centres’ and calls on the BMA leadership to ‘vigorously campaign for CATS and similar schemes to be stopped and reversed’.
While the junior doctors are discussing their future and that of the NHS in central London, in east London hundreds of lecturers and students from Further Education colleges are taking to the streets against cuts in courses, charges for classes and lecturers being made redundant.
The government is proposing to introduce charges in college for courses in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), knowing full well that this will hit those who have the greatest difficulties in getting jobs and are poor.
Anger against the government and the determination to fight for a future will be expressed at both the BMA’s JDC and on the marches of lecturers and students.
This feeling amongst public sector workers and people who depend on the services they provide has erupted very powerfully this week.
Last weekend, the Trades Union Congress endorsed the call from the civil servants union, the PCS, to make May Day ‘Public Sector Day’.
The PCS has already called a one-day strike of 270,000 civil servants on May 1, against pay cuts and redundancies leading to cuts in the essential services they provide.
Last Monday, the UNISON trade union’s Health Conference, in response to the NHS workers’ pay cut, agreed to ballot for industrial action ‘including strike action’ if the government does not make an improved offer ‘paid in full’.
The UNISON conference agreed ‘to support the call from the TUC to support the national day of protest on May 1, including lunchtime protests outside hospitals and clinics’.
There have already been protest rallies and marches all over the country because the government is subjecting up to 60 district general hospitals to ‘re-configuration’, imposing cuts and closures, but it is still proceeding with its attacks on the NHS.
Everyone in the NHS, education and the civil service knows they are fighting the Blair-Brown government, with its programme of privatisation, axing services, redundancies and pay cuts.
On May 1, they will take action by striking, joining pickets, and, in particular, taking part in the May Day March in central London. (see details page 1)
They must demand their unions and professional organisations join together and organise an indefinite general strike to bring down the Blair-Brown government and replace it with a workers’ government that will maintain essential public services.
They should form councils of action to organise strikes and occupations to stop cuts and closures.
This fight requires the building of a new leadership in the unions to organise this fight.
Junior doctors know that the BMA hierarchy is collaborating with the government to salvage MTAS, it has taken the PCS leaders a year to call a national strike, and the UNISON leadership has called no industrial action against NHS cuts and is funding the Labour Party.
Join the Workers Revolutionary Party’s and Young Socialists’ contingent on the May Day March and build a new leadership in the trade union movement!