The government’s handling of industrial relations

The junior doctors held their fourth strike on Wednesday 6th April of in protest to the Conservative government, who are extending the doctors’ working week to include Saturday’s and overseeing a ‘top down’ reorganisation of the NHS. Furthermore, The British Medical Association has announced there will be a “full withdrawal of labour between the hours of 8am and 5pm on Tuesday 26 and Wednesday 27 April”.

The statement comes following Jeremy Hunt’s threat to impose a new contract on 45,000 medics, despite it being unanimously rejected by medical professionals in the public sphere. The full walk out on the 26th and 27th is historic in that there has never been a withdrawal of labour on this scale in the 71 years since Atlee’s government introduced the modern welfare state. Needless to say, the doctor’s do not strike lightly, they have taken medical oaths and have families to feed. The truth is, the same hands which perform emergency surgery have been forced to industrial action by a government, which threatens to destroy the welfare state as we know it.

The rhetoric of coercion has become more commonplace for the Conservative government than democratic dialogue and this is exemplified by Hunt’s threat to impose his draconian contract. The argument is further advanced by the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, who told teachers “there will be no pulling back” over the government’s misguided plan to turn every school in the country into an academy by 2022. Morgan said; “Teaching unions have a choice spend the next four years doing battle with
us…’” or what? Submit to demands the teachers are morally and professionally in opposition to? The truth is neither Cameron, Hunt nor Morgan are offering a choice, rather, demanding compliance and using intimidation and threats such as the way Hunt has sent junior doctors individual contracts to undermine the union’s solidarity to bully the public sector workers into compliance. The militarised language “do battle” is appropriate because the Conservatives have declared war on the welfare state.

It’s worth remembering that the Conservatives promised there would be no “top down reorganisation” of the NHS before the 2010 election. Why? Because it’s an extremely unpopular topic amongst voters. Even Michael Portillo, a former Conservative MP who once ran for leadership admitted: “they {the Government} did not believe they could win an election if they told you what they were going to do because people are so wedded to the NHS”.

The public has become so accustomed to the Tories breaking their promises by raising VAT, increasing frontline public service cuts, and reducing child benefits and so on, that there is the risk of meek acceptance. What’s clear is that the PM, who in his first term appointed Lansley (a man with strong links to private healthcare firms) and in his second term appointed Jeremy Hunt as Health secretary, had every intention of dismantling the NHS. For instance, Cameron knew that Hunt had co-authored a book called Direct Democracy the principal author being the Ukip MP Douglas Carswell but was also co-written by Theresa May and Michael Gove) A book which stated, that the “NHS fails to meet public expectations” and “is no longer relevant to the 21st century”.

We cannot let our doctors and our teachers strike alone. We must stand stand shoulder to shoulder with professionals who safeguard our nation’s health and education because if they stand alone then they will likely be crushed like the mining community was thirty years ago. We cannot allow ourselves to be divided by the Tory propaganda machine. We need to support the striking doctors and teachers and mobilize support for a general strike before the Conservative’s completely decimate our welfare state. If united we stand, in the spirit of 1919, then perhaps the Conservative Government can fall.


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January 2022
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