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Ian Burge

E/London NHS Workers

Battle Against Health Cuts Begins

(September 1979)

From Militant, No. 470, 14 September 1979, p. 16.
Transcribed by Iain Dalton.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The battle against public sector cuts has started in earnest. With the summer holidays over, hospital workers are facing the grim reality of the Tory onslaught.

The health authorities are now hell-bent on the destruction of the NHS as we have known it.

The labour and trade union movement protested in horror when the last Labour government, under pressure from big business, allowed the NHS to go to the dogs.

But at least the labour leaders had to defend the principle of the NHS, assuring us that once the economy was ‘put right’, NHS spending would be restored.

But the Tories are ideologically opposed to the NHS and the ‘welfare state’. They would like to open up health to exploitation by private interests, forcing workers to pay through insurance, if they were young and fit and go without if old and infirm.

The TUC may have narrowly deferred leading an open, all-out working class fight against the cuts, [see editorial page 2] but the workers themselves are taking up the cudgels. The TUC will be forced to follow.

In the East End of London, emergency services only will be operating this Thursday afternoon as hundreds, if not thousands of hospital workers clock off and converge on the Area Health Authority in protest against the latest cuts and closures.

As yet, we may not see every union in every hospital involved. Not every worker has yet appreciated the full implication of the cuts. Our shop stewards organisation also needs further strengthening.

But indications are that this will be the biggest protest of its kind in East London.

Gone is the disunity seen on former occasions, when some sections of staff felt they were not affected by cuts and were hesitant at taking action and losing money. All feel threatened now. An irate radiographer recently came up to me in the canteen, complaining that we were not allowing the non-ASTMS staff to join in the half-day strike [not true, actually].

NUPE is already involved in lightning strike actions against arbitrary management re-organisation of staff in the catering section. New sections of ASTMS have been set up in laboratories faced with cut-backs in on-call allowances.

Another important test will be how many of those clocking off do actually attend the demonstration. It is a point that has been raised by those who have been fully committed on past occasions. Better leadership and organisation should ensure maximum participation.

The enormously increased prices and fares, together with management attempts to push through staffing ‘economies’ without consultation, are making their impression. But there is also a feeling now of knowing who the enemy is – the Tory Government.

Trades Councils, Labour Parties and Labour controlled councils have been dragging their feet up to now. We want to see them at the head of the campaign against the cuts and the Tory Government, not trailing behind.

Hospital workers are showing the way. Let the rest of our movement take up the banner with us!

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Last updated: 10 July 2017