On the junior doctors picket line at University College Hospital in April (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Consultants earn a fortune. They don’t need more money, do they? 

It’s true that we are highly paid but our strike isn’t about wanting to earn more—it’s about trying to win back what we’ve lost. The government has slashed our pay by over a third in just over a decade.  

Any worker faced with year-on-year pay cuts has three choices. 

One, you can put up with it, but we’ve done that for far too long. 

Two, you can find another job. But that damages the NHS. 

Or three, you can fight back. That’s what we are doing. It’s what everyone in the NHS should do. 

Won’t the coming joint strike with junior doctors put lives at risk? 

We’ve planned very carefully to ensure that all emergencies can be covered. No doctor would ever join action with the intention of harming patients. 

We will be running the same level of care as we do on Christmas day—and as we did on the bank holiday the day the king was crowned. I didn’t hear media panic about the lack of hospital cover then. 

What people should be worried about is the number of avoidable deaths happening every single non-strike day. Last year about 500 people a week died an “excess death”. The figure for this winter is now predicted to be double that. 

The Tories are putting lives at risk every day.

Is striking during the Tory conference ‘politicising’ the dispute? 

I hope so! All the choices about cutting health spending and slashing our pay are political. Austerity is political. The fact that schools and hospitals are crumbling is the result of those political choices. So our strikes must be political too. 

The government has refused to negotiate with us for six months.

When we’re outside the Tory conference protesting in October, it will be the closest health secretary Steve Barclay has come to a doctor since our strike began.

Will ramping up the strikes lose doctors public support? 

We hope it will do the opposite, as we’ve enjoyed massive support so far. Every poll I’ve seen shows doctors having some of the highest trust ratings and politicians having the worst. 

Are people really going to take the word of someone like Jacob Rees-Mogg or Rishi Sunak over that of a doctor when it comes to the health service? Most people wouldn’t trust a Tory MP to look after their cat, let alone the NHS—and rightly so. 

Can these strikes really win? 

Yes, if we can turn all that public support into something stronger and connect with other workers who are fighting back. The feeling around the destruction of the NHS is tangible among anyone who has had to use it recently.

We must generalise that understanding so everyone knows what the doctors’ strikes are really about. The TUC union grouping is here in my city this week.

I’d like it to start calling marches and protests over the health service, and in support of its striking staff. 

Consultants plan to strike on 19 and 20 Sept, junior doctors on 20-22 Sept. Both groups will be out on 20 Sept. And more action is planned for October.

Dave Proctor is a pseudonym

Barts workers outsourced to Serco on the picket line in January 2022 (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Big health strike sweeps across London

Thousands of workers at four London NHS trusts were preparing walkouts on Wednesday and Thursday this week in a fight over pay and safe staffing. 

More than 2,800 workers in the Unite union, including nurses, porters and cleaners, planned action at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, East London NHS Foundation Trust and Guys and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust. 

And at the Barts NHS trust in east London workers are also battling for equality for staff recently brought back to the health service from private firms. 

Union rep Carly told Socialist Worker the atmosphere at the giant Royal London hospital where she works is “excited and nervous”. 

“I’m a new rep and many of the members I talk to have never done anything like this before,” she said. “That means there are lots of questions, and we must reassure people. 

“But we know that we got the vote out for the strike ballot, so we are confident.” 

Carly says that her union branch includes hundreds of workers who were transferred back to the NHS from private contractor Serco after a major strike in 2022. But many ex‑Serco workers are not getting their NHS lump sum because of when they were transferred —and that is making all Barts workers angry.   

“The feeling here is that we should fight for everyone,” says Carly. “But we know that management are entrenched, so this will be a hard fight.” 

Carly says she hopes that she and other strikers get a lot of support on their picket line at the Royal London hospital.

“We will be there from about 7am and it would be great if people came down with union banners. Plus we are having lunchtime rallies at the London hospital on Wednesday and at St Thomas hospital in central London on Thursday.” 

Barts workers are set to strike again for a week from Saturday 16 September. 

Health workers’ willingness to fight shows why it was wrong for other health unions to abandon their strikes and settle for a poor deal. 

Workers at the East London NHS Foundation Trust will strike only on Wednesday 13 September. Carly is a pseudonym. For details of rallies go to tinyurl.com/UniteNHS0923

On the Unison union health workers’ picket in Wirral on Monday

Wirral battle over back pay sees escalating action

Hundreds of furious low paid health workers on the Wirral, Merseyside, were back on picket lines this week to stop bosses ripping them off to the tune of thousands of pounds. 

The Clinical Support Workers (CSWs) started a three-day strike on Monday. Their action comes after a huge 48-hour strike at the beginning of the month. 

The Unison union members are angry that for many years bosses wrongly assessed the skills required to do their job. That resulted in them being placed in pay band 2—effectively the lowest rung of the NHS payscale. 

Though bosses at Wirral University Teaching Hospital now agree that CSWs should be band 3, they are refusing to backdate their pay to April 2018, as it had earlier promised to do.

Instead, the Trust says it will only backdate pay to December 2022.

As a result of being wrongly assessed, CSWs have lost nearly £2,000 a year. So the failure to properly backdate pay means workers stand to lose years of the higher pay. 

David McKnight, Unison north west regional organiser, said, “The trust still refuses to do the right thing and pay these workers what they’re owed.”

Unison has already won this fight at many hospitals in the north west of England. 

But across Britain there are many other workers in jobs variously titled nursing assistants, or healthcare assistants, that should draw inspiration from this battle. 

All should be in band 3 and everyone regraded should get full back pay. Otherwise the bosses should feel the pressure of a strike.

Radiographers to join the fight  

Radiographers, who perform vital scans on patients, are ready to strike again in their long-running fight for decent pay. 

The Society of Radiographers (SoR) said its members will walkout for 24 hours from 8am on Tuesday 3 October after talks with the government earlier this month broke down. 

That means they will be out alongside both junior doctors and hospital consultants. The medics in the BMA union begin an unprecedented joint strike for three days from 2 October. 

All three groups will strike during the Conservative Party conference in Manchester. It is still hoped that other workers in dispute will join the action.

Bristol strikers demand equality  

Workers at Southmead Hospital’s Women’s and Children’s Division in Bristol were set to strike for 48 hours on Thursday and Friday this week. 

The GMB union members say North Bristol NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, has refused to provide workers with equal shift enhancements. 

The union said that in June the Trust agreed to pay enhancements for midwifery support workers, housekeepers and receptionists.

But bosses then did a U-turn. 

Angry workers point out that they have been expected to cover staffing gaps but are paid pennies above the minimum wage. 

Meanwhile, other staff covered by the Trust’s pay incentive scheme have earned four times the hourly rate of these workers. 

The union says that one of the arguments management put forward is that “the incentive is only needed for the first-class staff”. This is an insult to vital workers.

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