Link to this page: https://secure.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/721/14625
Doctors demonstrating in March 2007, photo Naomi Byron
NHS cuts... Pension cuts... RESIST CUTS!
Build for a 24-hour general strike
The coalition government is looking increasingly lonely in its insistence on austerity. For the vast majority it is clear - it ain't working. Over 10% of European adults are unemployed, up by 50% since 2008. Living standards are falling through the floor. In Greece it's been reported that cancer sufferers are going from hospital to hospital in search of essential drugs while NHS cuts and privatisation plans here threaten the existence of a national health service. Europe, and then the world, is on the brink of further banking and economic crisis.
But the resistance to these failed policies is also growing. In Britain, as Dr Jackie Grunsell explains, that now includes plans by doctors to take the first day of industrial action in almost 40 years on 21 June. This will also show the potential for health workers to play a leading role in defence of the NHS.
Last month the British Medical Association (BMA) balloted members asking two questions: are you prepared to take action short of a strike and are you prepared to strike over the attacks to pensions similar to those faced by other public sector workers? In a 50% turnout the vote was a resounding yes to both. 81.9% of junior doctors voted to strike.
The usual propaganda from the government has begun, accusing doctors of being greedy and overpaid. However, with burnout already an issue in the profession, who would want a 68 year old de-motivated doctor dealing with their care because they've been forced to work longer while paying more for a worse pension?
The fact that even this relatively privileged section of health workers has been driven to this action is a reflection of the anger that exists - not just over pensions but also the devastating attacks on the NHS being carried out by the Con-Dems.
It is a shame the BMA didn't take action alongside other workers last November and the impact of the action will be limited as doctors are still being told to attend their workplace and just do urgent care.
More decisive strike action coordinated with other health unions and the wider public sector will be necessary to push the government back. But the BMA now has a clear mandate to call that and escalate the action. Doctors need to step up the pressure to make this happen... the 21st will be a landmark day from which to demand further action.
In The Socialist 6 June 2012:
Fight the cuts!
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