• Saturday, June 22, 2024

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Junior doctors to go on strike just before election

Junior doctors in England during a strike in January. (Photo: Getty Images)

By: Vivek Mishra

Junior doctors in England will strike just days before the general election, their union announced on Wednesday, escalating a long-standing pay dispute with the Conservative government that may affect the final phase of the campaign.

The British Medical Association (BMA) stated that junior doctors, those below specialist or consultant level, will walk out from early June 27 until early July 2 over their pay dispute.

Voters across the UK will go to the polls on July 4, with the Labour opposition expected to potentially unseat the ruling Tories.

This strike follows nearly a dozen similar actions by junior doctors over the last 18 months, including the longest walkout in the seven-decade history of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), which lasted six days.

Various sectors in the UK have experienced strikes in recent years due to high inflation in 2023 and a cost-of-living crisis, prompting staff to demand pay increases to match rising prices.

While many pay disputes involving the government, quasi-public agencies, and private firms have been resolved, the junior doctors’ issue remains unresolved.

Junior doctors have been asking for a 35 per cent “pay restoration” as a starting point, with the BMA stating it is open to negotiations.

The UK government, responsible for health policy in England, has said their demands are unaffordable given the current public finances.

In response to the latest strike announcement, Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said the Conservatives had made “tough decisions to keep public spending down to bear down on inflation.”

Highlighting the political nature of the dispute ahead of the election, she urged Labour to condemn the walkout.

“Labour would be in the hands of their union paymasters — meaning more spending and higher taxes,” she said.

Labour leader Keir Starmer said it was “unforgivable” that ministers had not reached a pay settlement with junior doctors.

“Obviously, I don’t want the strike to go ahead,” he said while campaigning in western England. “But if we are privileged enough to come in to serve, then it will fall to us to settle this and to come to an agreement.”

(AFP)

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