ALL day yesterday the junior doctors were under heavy attack with Tories demanding that their strike be made illegal and suggestions being made that they could be hauled before tribunals and lose their jobs.
In response to this onslaught the BMA leadership have cancelled the first round of 5-day strike action which was due to start on Monday September the 12. The TV stations yesterday morning were broadcasting these threats every half an hour.
Among them was one from the GMC. It issued the following threat to junior doctors: if they go-ahead with their 5-day-strikes, and something happens to their patients, they face disciplinary measures and even being struck of the medical register.
Chair of the GMC, Professor Terrence Stephenson warned junior doctors that they will be ‘personally accountable for their actions and must be able to justify what they did afterwards if allegations are made against them.’
The whole of the trade union movement must now step forward to take their stand with the junior doctors, they must not be allowed to fight alone. What the working class won in 1948 must be defended now or it will be lost!
A BMA statement yesterday insisted that the remaining 5-day actions were not cancelled. The trade unions must now push forward to support them. October’s, November’s and December’s 5-day strikes are set to continue.
The BMA stated: ‘While the BMA had provided more than the legally required seven days’ notice ahead of industrial action, NHS England has said that it needs more time to plan for escalated action. Future dates planned for October, November and December will still go ahead, unless the government calls off its plans to impose a contract that has been rejected by junior doctors.’
Junior doctors leader Dr Ellen McCourt pointed out that it was the Tory government that was making hospitals unsafe when she commented: ‘Our hospitals are chronically understaffed, our NHS is desperately underfunded – we have to listen to our colleagues when they tell us that they need more time to keep patients safe.’
Tory health secretary Hunt is imposing the new contract on junior doctors in October. A joint FBU/PCS resolution calling on the TUC to call a national day of action was proposed in April, the TUC however refused to even discuss it.
When News Line asked the TUC yesterday to give their support to the 5-day strike action, the TUC refused to give a statement of support for the junior doctors and stated that they will not comment because the BMA is not affiliated to the TUC! However TUC trade unions declared that they stood with the doctors.
The PCS said: ‘We fully support the junior doctors and have called on the TUC to co-ordinate a day of action as this is a crucial dispute that the whole labour movement should get behind.’
Ian Hodson, National President of the Bakers union, told News Line: ‘It is not doctors who should be struck off, the only people who should be struck off is this government. Junior doctors should not be threatened or subjected to a guilt trip. They are simply standing up for their rights.
‘It does not matter what the GMC says, to me the people who work in the health service have always put patients first and I am in a 100% support of junior doctors and their strike action, as is our union. I would call on the whole of the labour movement to stand up and defend the junior doctors and defend the NHS, this includes the TUC, they have to show leadership on this issue. Whether the BMA is an affiliate or not, it is everyone’s responsibility to stand up for the NHS and at next week’s TUC conference it should be A1 priority!’
Steve Gillan, general secretary of the prisons officers union the POA, said: ‘In respect to the junior doctors, I would say that everyone has the fundamental basic human right to take strike action. Health secretary Jeremy Hunt must take the issue seriously and come to a negotiated settlement with the junior doctors.
‘However instead he wants to impose the contract. The point for any trade union is that things should not be imposed on them, they should be negotiated. The government are moving to adopt no-strike legislation on junior doctors, which would put them in the same position as prison officers, which starves them of their basic human right to strike. The TUC must take collective action. We put the general strike motion to the TUC which was carried, to look into the practicalities of a general strike and the TUC has done nothing since, nothing has happened as yet.’
Train drivers union Aslef said: ‘We support the junior doctors 100% and the stance they have been forced into by the government. The doctors know what patients need. We support a National Day of Action.’
Dave Wiltshire, secretary of the All Trade Union Alliance (ATUA) said: ‘Join the Young Socialists lobby of the TUC next Monday September 12 and demand that the TUC call an indefinite general strike to begin on the first day of the 5-day strike which is now scheduled to begin on Wednesday October 5th.
‘It is absolutely disgraceful that the TUC yesterday would not even make a comment of support for the junior doctors. Thousands of trade unionists must lobby of the TUC on Monday September 12 along with the Young Socialists to demand that they must not leave the junior doctors to fight alone and TUC must call an indefinite general strike to stand with the junior doctors to defend the NHS by bringing this government down. They must not be left to fight alone!’