NUT leader Blower calls for common front against the Tories’ hated policies
by Luke James and Lamiat Sabin
TEACHERS should co-ordinate strike action with junior doctors as they take on Tory plans to turn every school into an academy, NUT general secretary Christine Blower said yesterday.
Ms Blower made the bold proposal after members voted at the weekend to hold a strike ballot over the mass academisation plan announced in the Budget.
She said state education was now facing the same ideological onslaught as the heath service and vowed: “If there is scope to take action with junior doctors, you can be sure we will.”
If teachers and doctors walked out on the same day it would be the biggest strike since a million-strong mobilisation by several unions against the public-sector pay freeze in 2014.
Ms Blower announced that she had received a message of solidarity from the British Medical Association (BMA), signed by the chair of the junior doctors’ committee Yannis Gourtsoyannis and 3,000 more medics.
She pledged her union’s support for the BMA’s first all-out strike scheduled for April 26 and 27.
Another 48-hour strike is planned for April 6, when junior doctors will still provide emergency care.
Junior doctors are resisting an attempt by Tory Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to impose a new contract from August that the BMA warns would overstretch staff and put patients in danger.
Ms Blower argued the government was both trying to “make our health service less safe” and “destroy our education service.
“Teachers and doctors are central to ensuring that we have decent public health and education services. We have common interests.
“We should indeed unite our fights.”
Ms Blower issued the rallying cry in her final conference speech as NUT general secretary after leading the teachers’ union since 2008.
Concluding her speech, she quoted the dedication on Karl Marx’s tomb, which says: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.”
And she revealed that she would use her new-found free time to join the Labour Party and “continue to fight for the better world that we know is possible.”
Ms Blower received a huge standing ovation from delegates, who she then led in a rousing rendition of Billy Bragg’s Power in a Union.
Her rally cry came as the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC) urged junior doctors and the Department of Health to “step back from the brink” in order to return to negotiations.
In previous strike action, junior doctors provided emergency care. But upcoming strikes will see a full walkout by everyone up to consultant level between the hours of 8am and 5pm on both days.
AoMRC has urged the BMA to drop strikes and for Mr Hunt to halt plans to impose the contract.
Junior doctors said they were “open to negotiations” and emphasised that “industrial action is a last resort.”
Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander said Mr Hunt was the one that “must start listening to the growing chorus of medical and patient voices who are urging him to think again.”
She added: “He has four weeks until the next period of industrial action. It is vital that he uses that time to find a solution to this dispute that does not involve imposition.
“If he fails to do so the only losers will be patients.”