JUNIOR doctors have been excluded from any NHS pay rise, and they are furious. Yesterday, their union, the British Medical Association (BMA), announced they would be surveyed for strike action.
This, of course, would not be their first time they have been forced into taking strike action. Junior doctors had an unfair and unsafe contract imposed upon them by previous Tory Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, which provoked over a year of strikes.
Junior doctors went frontline during the pandemic, putting their lives at risk, seeing some of their colleagues contract coronavirus and die because of a lack of the most basic of protections, gloves, aprons and masks. They see this pay exclusion as a calculated insult.
The Tory government was originally intending to offer NHS staff a 1% ‘pay rise’ which, considering inflation is rising to 4%, was in actual fact a severe pay cut.
The NHS Pay Review Body recommended a 3% rise, which the government then promoted as a revised ‘uplift’ in wages. Nurses and other NHS staff are demanding 15%, and will accept nothing less. They are also prepared to strike to get it.
However, even this paltry 3% rise has been denied to junior doctors. BMA junior doctors’ committee chair Dr Sarah Hallett said: ‘The government’s decision to exclude them from the pay uplift announced last month is nothing short of insulting.
‘3% is not an adequate uplift for any of our vital NHS staff, but in refusing to award the additional 1% to junior doctors in England above their multi-year pay deal, ministers have effectively devalued their enormous and lifesaving contributions over the last 18 months.’
Junior doctors have suffered a real-terms decline in pay of 23% over the last 11 years. Furthermore, they used to enjoy accommodation free of charge while doing their clinical practice on NHS hospital sites. This meant that they could afford to study and in return could get called into the hospital anytime of day or night to help if there was a big accident or emergency. That free accommodation was taken away in 2013, which sparked mass protests and demonstrations.
Junior doctors have faced a barrage of attacks at the hands of this Tory government.
It takes five-years of study to become a doctor which means five years of university fees at an eyewatering cost of £9,250 a year! Many medical students take out a further £8,500 in loans to pay for their accommodation, which means that it is not uncommon for junior doctors to graduate with over £100k worth of debt!
You would think that this would drive aspiring young doctors away, but, such is the feeling amongst young students to become doctors and dedicate their lives to the NHS, that this year has seen unprecedented numbers of A-level students applying to become junior doctors.
So much so that the government announced yesterday that it has removed the 9,000 students cap on the number of places for medical and dental students.
There has been a 20% increase in applications for medicine and dentistry courses this year, and more students are expected to get the required grades due to an expected inflation in A-level results because of the pandemic.
The pandemic has highlighted the vital importance of NHS socialist medicine, of having a nationalised health service free at the point of use, and thousands of students are now aspiring to become the next generation of junior doctors.
However, this pandemic has also highlighted the complete disregard for human life by this government, which has spent the last decade stripping the NHS to its bare bones, shutting A&Es, children’s and maternity departments and closing entire hospitals down.
After Johnson spent the height of the pandemic lauding nurses, doctors and NHS staff as ‘heroes’, calling for ‘claps for carers’, his government has now unceremoniously kicked them in the teeth by refusing to award them a proper rise.
There is no doubt that junior doctors will play a major role in the struggle that is emerging to defend the NHS and its staff.
The BMA must immediately open up talks with the Royal College of Nurses (RCN), the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), Unison, GMB and Unite to mobilise all their members.
The fast-approaching strike action over NHS pay must be supported by every trade union. All workers must see that the government is defeated by taking sympathy general strike action. This action will not only win a 15% pay rise it must bring in a workers government and a socialist transformation in the UK.
This is the way forward!