ON Thursday Tory health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, delivered a speech proclaiming that as far as the government is concerned ‘the matter is closed’: he will push ahead with imposing the new contract on junior doctors and he will not ‘back down’.
A health department insider told the BBC that the BMA had ‘blown its chance’ and that there would be no further negotiations on the new contract which cuts pay and increases the unsocial hours doctors will be forced to work.
The Tories’ determination to drive through the new contract in the face of universal opposition from doctors, patients and the whole working class shows its importance to the Tory strategy of privatising the NHS.
First the junior doctors, then every other health worker, will have wage-cutting and increased workloads thrust down their throats to make the NHS a viable proposition for the profit-hungry privateers.
Nothing, not even the next two days of strike action which includes the unprecedented withdrawal of emergency cover by junior doctors, will change Hunt’s mind. Hunt’s pledge of an all-out war to smash the junior doctors, their union the BMA and destroy the NHS is not made from a position of strength.
The week he made his defiant speech was a week in which the Tory leader, David Cameron, was on the ropes and facing calls for his resignation over his family’s involvement in the massive tax-avoidance scam revealed in the leaked Panama papers.
This saw Cameron having to wildly backtrack over his initial claim that neither he nor his family had benefited from the shell companies set up by his late father in the offshore tax haven. The week got worse for the Tories when its huge eurosceptic wing rose up in vitriolic anger over the government plan to bombard every single household with a 16 page pro-EU leaflet at the cost to the taxpayer of £9.3 million.
The government, with its tiny majority of just 12, is not just torn apart by this split but is in the last stages of meltdown, with Tory MPs threatening to ‘grind government to a halt’ and promising to bring Cameron down.
Clearly Hunt is not drawing any strength from a government that is collapsing – he is relying solely on the weakness of the trade union leadership and their refusal to lift a finger in defence of the doctors and the NHS. The TUC has maintained a complete silence over the struggle by junior doctors apart from issuing bland statements of support.
Not a single leader of a trade union like Unite or Unison has called on their members in the health service to come out in support of this fight, despite the fact that they know full well that their members will be next in line for having similar contracts imposed on them and that the future of the NHS is at stake.
Instead, the TUC and trade union leadership have met every attack on the working class, whether it is NHS workers or steelworkers, with the same treacherous line of appealing to the Tories to step back and offering compromise after compromise.
This Tory government is only surviving through the refusal of the TUC and Labour leadership to bring it down. Just as Hunt has drawn the line in the sand over junior doctors so the working class have no option but to respond in kind. The only escalation that can bring the struggle to the point of resolution is to demand that the TUC call a general strike to kick out this Tory government and go forward to a workers government and socialism.
The general council of the TUC is meeting at its headquarters on April 27. News Line calls on junior doctors and all workers and youth to lobby this meeting, to besiege the TUC and demand that these leaders either call a general strike immediately or be removed and replaced by a leadership prepared to fight. Only the WRP is building this leadership – come to the Lobby on April 27 and join the WRP today.