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Junior Doctors’ rally in Chelmsford

Junior doctor’s strike

Report from Jon Woollard

27/04/16

Junior doctors walked out across England today, Wednesday, in their second ten-hour “full walkout” determined to resist the imposition of Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s dangerous new contract, which would rip apart terms and conditions and put patient safety at risk.

Hunt and right wing media’s attempts to smear junior doctors have failed. They claimed that the full walkout—which means junior doctors no longer provide emergency cover during the strike—put patients in danger. But consultants provide emergency cover in their place. It is the Tory attacks that are putting patient safety at risk.

I visited the ‘Meet in the Doctors’ event in High Chelmer shopping centre. There were 10 junior doctors, all enthusiastic, positive and determined. Unfortunately, security had asked them to not display the word ‘strike’ on any placards or posters because it was ‘inflammatory.’ They have not been asked to do this in the past.

I spoke to Ananna Rahman, a junior doctor and BMA member. She stressed that the ‘public support has been better than previous strikes, especially with food and drink donations.’ Other health care professionals have shown their solidarity, along with unions such as the FBU, Unison and NUT.

We discussed some of the persistent claims by Hunt regarding his ‘vision’ and the contract. In regards to the ‘7-Day NHS’ pledge, Ananna stated that Hunt ‘has not defined what it actually is.’ He is ‘pushing it because it sounds good.’ What Hunt really wants to do is to get ‘private companies to come in, take over services and then charge the NHS premium costs.’ A 7-day NHS needs to be ‘properly planned with increased investment, not stretched.’

Ananna then spoke about the details of the contract, including the supposed pay-rise and the effect on women. Firstly, Ananna stressed that the dispute is not about pay. It is about work conditions, safety and defending the NHS. Hunt’s claim that the contract will see a 13% pay increase ‘is simply not true.’  If anti-social work pay is cut and basic pay is increased, that would result in a 27% pay cut. Furthermore, the contract will ‘disproportionately affect female workers, who make up 60% of the staff.’

We concluded our talk by discussing the possible next steps for the BMA.  Ananna pointed out that the BMA leadership may opt for an escalation of strike days or a full-on indefinite strike. It is not certain which action will be taken yet but ‘now is the time to hit it, especially with the Tories facing an internal war.’ In terms of local action, junior doctors were very keen about organising a rally in Chelmsford High Street, which would include other trade unions. As an association, we should try to be involved in the organisation and participation of this event.

With Hunt shaken but not backing down, it’s now down to the BMA to call more action—and the TUC, union leaders and Labour to offer practical solidarity.

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