As junior doctors across Britain walk out for their second day of strikes, medical student Sophie Walton weighs up where the dispute is currently at. Thanks to rs21 supporters for sending in pictures.
Junior doctors are on strike again today as they continue to fight against government plans to impose a new contract on them.
Negotiations have moved on significantly in the past couple of months, with compromise agreements reached around safeguards for working hours, career progression protection, and reducing the number of long days and night shifts doctors can be expected to work.
But one major sticking point remains for the junior doctors: Saturday is not the same as Tuesday. The BMA doctors’ union is resolute that weekend work must be recognised as anti-social.
One offer allegedly made by BMA negotiators would have seen premium pay rates for Saturdays reduced while maintaining that Saturdays should not be considered as ordinary working days. This was vetoed by health secretary Jeremy Hunt against the advice of NHS Employers and the Department of Health.
It’s clear that the government is hell bent on pushing their contract through, come what may. David Cameron has called this dispute his “miners’ strike”. But poll after poll shows doctors have public support overwhelmingly on our side. We can win if we keep our resolve and escalate our industrial action.
Solidarity from other health workers, patients and NHS campaigners has flowed in from the beginning of the contract campaign. All health workers know that if the junior doctors don’t win, their contracts will be next – and that ultimately the fate of the NHS itself is on the line.
We need to make sure that the solidarity they’ve shown us is reciprocated in the next fight, with the BMA and junior doctors being ready to support their colleagues. We also need to plan for how to support consultants when they go into dispute over contracts, and how to help Agenda for Change staff to beat the government imposed pay freeze.
If we can beat the government over its attacks on pay and conditions, we can start to push back against privatisations and funding cuts in other areas. This will build a better NHS and a better society.
But the BMA needs to keep its resolve and escalate. We need to call more days of industrial action as soon as possible. We should not be cancelling strike days when the government is not making any meaningful concessions. Health workers united are unstoppable!
More pictures from picket lines around the country:
Kent and Canterbury Hospital: