Striking junior doctors marching with teachers in London, 26.4.2016, photo Paul Mattsson

Striking junior doctors marching with teachers in London, 26.4.2016, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Scott Jones

Junior doctors at their conference on 14 May voted to “work to foster and develop links with other unions and to lobby the wider BMA to do likewise”.

Described by Yannis Gourtsoyannis, a member of the BMA junior doctors’ committee, as huge, this is a real rejection of the TUC general council’s refusal to call a day of action in support of junior doctors.

This demand was put forward by the civil servants’ union PCS and firefighters’ union FBU but was scandalously rejected by the TUC on 27 April.

The BMA and junior doctors have been forced along the path of trade unionism and have adopted its methods. However, the TUC has, at every turn, left the junior doctors’ struggle isolated.

Talks between the government and junior doctors over the new contract have been extended after the government stepped back from imposing it. But during the talks details of a plan emerged to train nurses to stand in for doctors as a way to tackle the hospital staffing crisis. Junior doctors have said the idea is dangerous and it’s no coincidence it’s been devised at a time of strike action.

It further reiterates the reality of the junior doctors dispute, which isn’t just over contracts but the future of the NHS. The battle for that future must involve coordinated action by trade unions.

Yannis Gourtsoyannis will be speaking at the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) conference on 2 July (see page 6 for details), putting into action the call made at the junior doctors’ conference. Like the junior doctors, the NSSN, along with thousands of union activists, is fighting for mass action to defeat the Tories. This will be a major theme of the NSSN conference.