THE latest two-day strike action of the junior doctors has been a resounding success with massive picket lines, and huge public support, while the established senior consultants have given emergency cover that ensured that there was no state of emergency in the NHS, which the likes of Hunt had been looking forward to, in order to begin the biggest witch-hunt since the days of the miners’ strike.
Above all, large numbers of trade unionists joined the picket lines, while all of the delegates from the Unison health conference marched to the picket line at Brighton General Hospital to show their support. Also, the PCS and the FBU supported by the UCW sent a letter to the general secretary of the TUC urging that at yesterday’s TUC General Council ‘a day of action be called’ to mobilise all of the working class in support of the doctors.
According to the PCS: ‘In his letter to the TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady, Mark (Serwotka) says our national executive committee this afternoon agreed to make the call, and writes: “It is increasingly clear that the government is deliberately stoking the dispute for political reasons, and that the BMA’s brave response continues to be necessary in defence of patient safety.
‘“The junior doctors’ determined action enjoys wide public support and deserves the fullest possible support and solidarity from the trade union movement.”’ The PCS continues: ‘“The day could include industrial action where possible, we have said, but also demonstrations, lobbying and other public events, in close co-operation with the BMA and its representatives.”’
With the PCS absent, the general council decided not even to call a day of action, and would not invite a junior doctor to address them – instead, they decided to buy some time by agreeing to contact the BMA leaders to find out what they could do to help – when what is needed is obvious!
This is just playing for time by the TUC right wing. What is going on here is something similar to what happened during the historic miners’ strike to save the coal industry in 1984-85. Then, Thatcher prepared for the battle for four years, but in her memoirs, admitted that on a number of occasions she had to turn to the TUC to save her from being defeated.
While the riot police were battering the miners in places like Orgreave, she kept the TUC leaders sweet, to help when matters reached touch and go. There is something similar happening today. The Tories are currently bringing in very strong anti- union laws that will not only prevent workers taking strike action but will stop subscriptions being collected through the check-off system, and require very high voting turn-outs to enable a trade union to take any action.
The TUC has avoided taking any industrial action to stop these measures becoming law. It has concentrated on getting the support of Tory MPs and peers against some of these measures that most affect the bureaucracy, especially in its pocket, so to speak. The Tories are now suggesting that they are willing to allow the collection of union subs direct from wages and also to permit electronic voting.
While raining blows down on the junior doctors, the Tories are making concessions to the TUC, to keep them sweet, and get them to ‘see no ships’ and to delay and equivocate while the junior doctors are being witch-hunted! In order to get electronic voting, and keep the check-off system for collecting subscriptions, the bureaucracy is more than ready to let the junior doctors fight alone, and see the Tories begin to dismantle the NHS.
Shame on them! They should have called the Day of Action! The millions of trade union members must now move into action at once. Every union must decide to take action alongside the junior doctors. Every branch must demand the TUC call a general strike to win the junior doctors’ struggle to secure the future of the NHS and smash all anti-union laws.
If it will not, the TUC Congress must be recalled and a new leadership elected, prepared to use the huge strength of the working class to win the doctors’ struggle by bringing down the Tories and going forward to a workers government and socialism.