Call a one day general strike to defend the NHS

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YESTERDAY the leaders of the NHS trade unions were in their own words ‘raising the heat over the future of the NHS’.

What resolute and decisive measures were the trade union leaders taking to safeguard the future of the NHS, which we all know the Blair government intends to completely privatise.

They were handing out a fact-finding sheet to MPs at the House of Commons. They said: ‘Unions representing health workers are turning up the heat on MPs during the summer recess over the alarming pace of ill-advised change in the NHS.’

The union leaders must be joking. It was these MPs who passed the legislation that the Blair government is using to carry through its privatisation measures.

They know what is going on and have let the Labour government carry on doing it, and have not the slightest intention of stopping it.

The trade union leaders should be leafletting the big hospitals organising action, not wasting time on good for nothing MPs.

In fact, the trade union leaders themselves have only very lately woken up to the fact that Blair is privatising the NHS, and have only just formed a health union campaign to defend the it.

What has woken them up is the fast growing anger of their members, at the mass sackings that are taking place in the NHS, with thousands of nurses, ancillary workers, junior doctors and even consultants finding themselves surplus to requirements, as more and more resources go into the private sector.

The membership will not stand for this. Their anger has woken the leaders of the union. They are now going through the motions, trying to show the membership that they are doing something.

These same union leaders have been keeping the Blair government in office for years, despite the fact that it has hit at their members’ wages, jobs and basic rights.

In fact, all that they have planned to oppose the privatisation of the NHS is a fringe meeting at the TUC and Labour party conferences (These will really terrify the Blair government), an October lobby of MPs and a demonstration in the Spring – a full seven months away.

This is hardly the trade union leaders rushing into action to defend the NHS, and defeat the privatisation plans of the Blair government.

This is the union leaders trying to convince some members that they are doing something by carrying out a few futile protests.

Examine the motions on the preliminary agenda for the TUC Congress in September on the NHS, and you will find that they are long on words but very short on action. They will not disturb Blair or the privateers.

The FBU motion calls for the General Council to play an ‘instrumental role in confronting privatisation, job losses and service cuts’ but then fails to suggest a single action that the General Council should take to confront the privateers’ government.

The UNISON resolution ‘notes the creeping privatisation of the NHS’, and ‘calls on the General Council to organise a demonstration in spring 2007 to take forward’ the demands that it makes.’

The Prospect resolution does not call for any action at all.

This great ‘campaign’ is a big evasion. The TUC must be made to call mass action to defeat privatisation. Workers must demand that the unions amend the motions going before the TUC, to start the action with a one day general strike to show the Blair government that we will not tolerate NHS privatisation.

This one day general strike must be followed up by a full indefinite general strike to bring down the government and bring in a workers government that will defend and develop the NHS.

On Monday September 11 thousands of workers must lobby the TUC Congress to demand that this policy is carried out.