Full support for junior doctors! – –Hunt threatens to illegalise strikes

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Junior doctors mass leaflet Liverpool Street Station during last month’s strike – they are now escalating their struggle
Junior doctors mass leaflet Liverpool Street Station during last month’s strike – they are now escalating their struggle

THIS MORNING for the first time in history, junior doctors launch their full walk-out, taking the government head on.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn responded yesterday to the government’s accusation that the junior doctors’ strike was a ‘political’ strike to ‘bring down the government’ by saying ‘Back off! and support the junior doctors’.

Addressing the CWU annual conference at the Bournemouth International Centre, Corbyn said: ‘Junior doctors are absolutely passionately committed to health care, that is why they are doctors.

‘They are committed to working within the National Health Service, that is why they are doctors within the National Health Service. So can we just simply say to Jeremy Hunt back off! We are supporting the junior doctors.’

Junior doctors are on all-out strike from 8am until 5pm today and again tomorrow as they step up their fight against the health secretary Hunt’s imposition of an unfair and unsafe contract.

The junior doctors must not be allowed to fight alone! At 8am on Wednesday morning the Young Socialists have called a lobby of the TUC to demand they call a general strike and mobilise the entire working class to defend the junior doctors.

Speaking in parliament yesterday, Hunt reiterated his refusal to negotiate. He said: ‘We need a counter party that we have sensible negotiations with and we have not had that this time.’

The issue of the fundamental right to strike was then raised. During the debate Andrew Bridgen Tory MP for North West Leicestershire said: ‘Doctors are amongst the most highly remunerated public servants, far higher then members of the police or the armed services, both who are essential workers and both who are barred by law from taking strike action. Can I ask my right honorable friend to review this situation with regard to A&E medics.’

Agreeing with a change in law which would ban the right to strike, Hunt replied: ‘His broader point I would agree with. When you are paid a high salary, that comes with the responsibilities of a profession.

‘That is why however much you disagree with the new contract, how ever much you may not agree with the government’s plans for a seven day NHS, it’s totally inappropriate to withdraw emergency care in the way that is going to happen tomorrow and the next day and that is why I think that doctors should be very careful about the impact this will have on their status in the country.’

Postal workers in the CWU union decided at their conference that 80 postal workers as well as their general secretary Dave Ward will join junior doctors on the picket line this morning at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital in solidarity with the BMA’s all-out strike.

After today and tomorrow’s strikes the junior doctors plan to escalate the struggle further. The BMA Junior Doctors Committee (JDC) is discussing the option of an indefinite strike if the government persists with imposing the contract.

Chairman of the Junior Doctors Committee Johann Malawana said yesterday: ‘The junior doctors would have probably looked at anything that was put in front of them that actually genuinely tried to find a way out of this.

‘But the fact is we are seeing a government that has had six weeks to talk to us about what happens during the two days of strike and it simply buried its head in the sand.

Unite national officer for health Barrie Brown said: ‘It is unforgivable that the government should be raising the spectre that the junior doctors are trying to bring down the government.

‘These are the same sordid tactics that Margaret Thatcher employed against the miners in the 1980s – and should be strongly deplored. This squalid demonisation must stop. The key to this dispute is the legitimate concerns that the junior doctors have regarding patient safety and the lack of resources available to fund weekend working in a safe manner.’

The London region of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) has called a joint demonstration with the BMA today, assembling outside St Thomas’ Hospital in central London at 5pm. The teachers and doctors then march on the Department of Health. The NUT said: ‘We are marching together to support the junior doctors.

‘Junior doctors are out on strike again to stop the government imposing an unsafe contract. Their struggle is part of a wider struggle to defend working conditions and public services. Teachers face similar threats too. Teachers will join the march to show the government that they back the junior doctors.’