For the first time in 40 years, tens of thousands of junior doctors took to their picket lines on January 12 to oppose government plans to attack Britain's public National Health System (NHS).
As part of its bigger plan to run the NHS into the ground, the Conservative government is trying to impose a new contract on all junior doctors working in England.
The junior doctors trade union, the British Medical Association (BMA), has found that the new contract would result in the NHS suffering a shortage of doctors. This is due to the proposed pay cut and removal of maximum hours safeguards resulting in many junior doctors leaving the NHS due to poor pay, stress and burn-out.
Outside Sunderland Royal Hospital, two picket lines were set up next to each main entrance with the junior doctors in high spirits and good voice, cheering at the large number of car horns being sounded in support of them.
Many colourful, home-made placards were evident, including “More Hours – 30% less pay”, “Your Blood, my sweat, our tears” and an entire death certificate written out for “Sunderland” and addressed to health secretary Jeremy Hunt's office.
After the picket line, many of the junior doctors planned to take part in the BMA's “Meet a doctor” public engagement events being held in the city centres of Newcastle and Middlesbrough after a regional public strike rally in Newcastle.
The picket lines, public engagement exercises and street rallies were typical of the energetic, creative and seriously-organised spirit which has characterised the BMA's junior doctors campaign so far. They should serve as something of a model for all other public sector industrial disputes.
The rallies, marches and now strike have all been designed to have as big an impact as possible through maximising public support (66% of the public support the strike according to a recent survey) and clearly and consistently identifying the junior doctors campaign as part of the broader movement to save the NHS from the Tories terminal program of cuts and privatisation.
[Reprinted from Counterfire.]