I may be wrong but in my early life (1951 – 1985) it seemed that strikes were a regular occurrence. For all sorts of reasons these seemed a lot less frequent after that even though they still happened. More often than not these give rise to mixed reactions. There are those that argue that strikes are a regrettable last resort in the eyes of those who do strike in order to get their just desserts. Others argue that it is unproductive and irresponsible to strike and especially when people who do strike let others down as a result.
Strikes were once seen as the domain of the working class as part of their struggle against their capitalist employers who are liable to use any ruse they can to subjugate their employees, paying them as little as they can and doing no more for them than they can get away with. When it comes to professionals taking strike action then people tend to take more note, especially when the people they purport to help suffer as a result of them withdrawing their services. Most of the afore-mentioned considerations apply in the case of the strike by junior doctors starting today, with the added twist that the employer in this case is the government, all of which got me thinking.
As with most disputes, it is nigh impossible for an outsider to come to a full rounded view where the right lies if not cognizant of all the facts, and this is true in this case. It seems from a government perspective it is about trying to change the doctors contracts, especially as it seeks to roll out its ideas of a seven day a week NHS, and in a climate of austerity. From a junior doctors point of view, they were already being paid not enough to do a very demanding job that requires long and unsocial hours working, with the added burden of being responsible for peoples lives, and with the new contract they will be markedly worse off and they remain in the position of junior doctor before going up the scale for many years having done many years of training prior to that. This is a last resort, short term measure and does not affect emergency services.
As I listen to the cases being put forward by the government and their allies in the media and that by the doctors and those with left leaning political views, I have to declare that on balance my sympathies have to be with the doctors, who have acted responsibly, with due decorum and dignity, and have argued their case well. In fact, I found today’s reported comments by the government health secretary immensely irritating as these went toward patronizing and demonizing the doctors that have taken this action, who from their point of view felt they had no alternative. I am of the view the NHS is not in safe hands with the present government and junior doctors are being badly treated, and I hope there will be a just settlement.