Source >> ACR Midlands
More than 500 people gathered in the Markets Area of Birmingham city centre today, Friday 14 April, in support of a rally organised by the British Medical Association for the Junior Doctors on the last day of their current four days of industrial action.
Despite the rain, those in attendance, mostly doctors and other health workers, although supported by many other trade unionists and workers, were in a very upbeat mood. The determination is that this struggle must carry on: doctors, like others working in the NHS, have had enough, and will not tolerate anymore the worsening of pay and conditions. Very many held up homemade placards and banners, and joined in the singing and chanting that was superbly led by Banner Theatre, a local political theatre company.
The rally was expertly run by Tal Ellenbogan, a young Junior Doctor, who kept the crowd entertained as he introduced the many and varied speakers that included other doctors and representatives from the teachers’ union, the NEU, and from Birmingham Trades Union Council.
Andrew Jordan, one of the BMA’s West Midlands Industrial Relations Officers, spoke about the strength and determination of the struggle to carry on until its aims are achieved. That strength lies in the united motivation from the magnificent 77.94% turnout in the ballot with the enormous given mandate of 98% voting for industrial action. Pay and conditions have been continually eroded over 15 years of struggle, and in addition Junior Doctors carry the burden of £100,000 of student loan debts and changes being inflicted that will lead to their future pensions being decreased.
Ayesha Shafaq Chaudary, Chairperson of the West Midlands BMA Regional Junior Doctors’ Committee, spoke about the worsening and unsafe conditions that Junior Doctors have to endure in their workplaces. Feeling undervalued with overstretched rotas, denied leave and having contracts imposed on them, the government, she said, has pushed too hard. She talked of salaries being slashed by 26% since 2008, but the workload not being reduced by this figure, and to make matters worse MPs’ salaries have gone up by 40% during this period. The continuous media attacks against the striking doctors has its motive in “divide and conquer “, but the union is strong, and has public backing and will win this fight.
After the speeches the assembled crowd set off on a vocal march around the city centre streets, garnering support from shoppers and workers.
The rally today was reflective of other recent rallies held in Birmingham by public service workers, with an equally strong and determined character, such as the RMT, PCS and NEU in their fights to win better pay and conditions for their members. In addition, many BMA members talk about the struggle to save the NHS, and in fighting for better pay is fighting to save the haemorrhaging of Junior Doctors taking up new positions abroad, such as in Australia or New Zealand.
A running injoke with some of the speakers, and understood by the majority of the audience, was the demand for “more chairs”. These doctors, who cure the sick and save people from dying, have nowhere to sit but on bins, and have no proper spaces to relax in. The situation is beyond shame!
SUPPORT THE JUNIOR DOCTORS!
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