THE BMA and its Junior Doctors Committee yesterday ‘made the decision to suspend the 48-hour industrial action planned for 26-28 January. We are announcing this today in order to give trusts as much notice as possible so as to avoid disruption to patients. This decision is in line with our stated aim to ensure a safe, fair contract through negotiated agreement, if at all possible.’
The BMA leaders have run away despite the fact that they are extremely sceptical that a negotiated agreement is even possible with the Tories. This is their second retreat and imitation of the Grand Old Duke of York – he marched his troops to the top of the hill and marched them down again – meaning that their leadership cannot now be taken seriously.
What made the difference was the intervention of PM Cameron, making it clear that the gloves are about to come off. On Monday, Cameron publicly intervened in the junior doctors struggle, giving his full support to Health Secretary Hunt, confirming that if doctors don’t agree to the new contract it will be unilaterally imposed.
He told the BBC’s Radio 4: ‘We can’t simply go into a situation where the junior doctors have a complete veto and block over progress in our NHS,’ adding, ‘If you rule out ever imposing a contract you’re basically giving a veto to the BMA over what the situation will be in future, and we can’t do that. We have a manifesto commitment to a seven-day NHS.’
Junior doctors staged their first strike in over 40 years last week, after an initial postponement of taking action, with thousands setting up mass picket lines across the country which were joined by many sections of workers. Shortly thereafter, the BMA and central government agreed to re-enter talks ahead of more planned industrial action – a 48-hour walk-out on 26 January, and a 24-hour full strike on 10 February.
Despite the ongoing talks, Hunt came forward provocatively reiterating his former threat of taking what he called the ‘nuclear option’ and imposing the new contract regardless of discussions. Speaking to the BBC, he claimed it was still possible, and still legal, to do so without the BMA’s signature. It is this ‘nuclear option’ that Cameron intervened to support.
Up till now, the NHS has been facing ‘creeping privatisation’ under the Health and Social Care Act, with a third of contracts awarded to private sector providers since the legislation came into force.
A study in the British Medical Journal revealed that, between April 2013 and August 2014, non-NHS providers – those from the private and voluntary sectors or elsewhere in the public sector – have secured 45% of contracts.
Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, said: ‘These figures show the extent of creeping privatisation in the NHS since the Health and Social Care Act was introduced. The government flatly denied the Act would lead to more privatisation, but it has done exactly that.’
Cameron and Hunt’s proclamation of the ‘nuclear option’ to impose the new contract on the junior doctors is to prepare the way for the complete privatisation of the NHS, with the dictatorship of contract imposition to be used throughout the NHS, against all trade unions, to impose the changes that privatisation requires.
The Tories no doubt made clear that the January 26 two-day strike would be met with mass disciplinary actions against junior doctors, and then derecognition of the BMA.
This is what caused the BMA to run away while recognising that a negotiated settlement is extremely unlikely.
Junior doctors and all BMA members must demand the resignation of their leaders and the immediate formation of a new leadership willing to reinstate and lead the junior doctors strike actions, and to take the struggle forward to defend the NHS, defeat the Tories and bring in a workers government and socialism.
Under conditions of the greatest ever crisis of capitalism, reformist leaders are disintegrating. Now is the time to build a revolutionary leadership in the trade unions, and to join the WRP and the YS today to carry out this task!