Doctors are facing the same pension cuts as other public sector workers – pay more and work longer to get less. This attack serves two purposes – it allows them to cut pay, without having to say they are cutting pay and it softens the NHS (and other public services) up for privatisation. The money saved will not go into the pension pots, despite the language the government uses about how pensions are unsustainable and we have to work longer, but will go to paying off the deficit caused by the bankers.
Hospitals will still have skeleton staff to deal with emergencies – in fact there will be more doctors on duty today then there were over the Jubilee weekend or on a normal nightshift. Doctors and other NHS workers do not go on strike lightly, nor would they do so if they thought they were endangering patient’s health. This is the first doctors strike for 37 years.
Being a doctor is a difficult job, because medical research advances so quickly, with new techniques and medicines being developed all the time, and thousands of medical trials conducted every year. This is a particular issue for GPs who need to keep a shallow but general knowledge of all areas of medicine. As we get older, we find it harder to incorporate new ideas and practices into our lives, and get used to the ways we have done things. Making doctors work later to get their pensions could have serious knock on effects on patient care.
Meanwhile, at the University of Birmingham, support staff are on a two-day strike, over a derisory pay offer, which has seen just 77 of over 2,000 staff offered a £250 / 1.9% pay rise, whilst removing shift allowances for evening and weekend work which leaves many people facing a pay cut. Even those who will get a rise will see their wages fall in real terms as inflation which has fallen below 3% for the first time in a few years.
This comes in the context of the university increasing its surplus from £22.3m to £27m per year, and is in a healthy financial position, despite cuts to teaching budgets from central government funds which are being used as cover for reducing the living standards of some of the lowest paid staff at the university, whilst the Vice-Chancellor, David Eastwood enjoys huge pay rises and a salary of over £400,000.
You can support the University strikers by signing this petition.
Both these groups are taking action today against the government austerity program which threatens to send many more people below the breadline, with real wages being reduced further, the continuing threat of workfare and the abuse of apprenticeships to undercut minimum wage legislation.
We extend our solidarity to those workers on strike today, and encourage all other workers who are facing cuts to pay or conditions to push their union to take strike action.