Tens of thousands of members of the British Medical Association (BMA) are walking out of their jobs in England in the longest-ever period of industrial action by junior doctors as the cost-of-living crisis weighs on Britons’ lives.
Junior doctors across England are launching a three-day strike, starting from Monday, in a dispute over pay and conditions, which have been escalating for months.
“This week junior doctors will take strike action so they are paid what they are worth,” BMA said in a statement.
According to the BMA, newly qualified medics make around £14 an hour, less than a barista in a coffee shop, as they have suffered a 26 percent real-term pay cut since 2008/09.
“Pret a Manger has announced it will pay up to £14.10 per hour. A junior doctor makes just £14.09,” an advertising campaign launched by the trade union said.
"Thanks to this government you can make more serving coffee than saving patients,” BMA added.
Dr. Robert Laurenson and Dr. Vivek Trivedi, BMA junior doctors’ committee co-chairs, said: “Is £14.09 an hour really all junior doctors are worth? These are people who can be providing life-saving care, having trained intensively at medical school, and racking up around £100,000 worth of debt in the process.”
“We are fully supportive of any worker getting an inflation-matching pay rise, and it is worth thinking on the fact that the government has cut junior doctors’ pay by so much that they could earn more serving coffee,” they added.
They also raised the alarm over junior doctors’ obsession with their job conditions across the UK and looking for jobs abroad or in other fields.
Matthew Taylor, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation, was quoted as saying that the strike action marks a “major blow” and would be “hugely disruptive and worrying” for thousands of patients.
Hospitals have already canceled tens of thousands of outpatient appointments and operations this week as a precaution against the strike which will severely disrupt NHS care.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called on the junior doctors to accept the government’s slight pay rise and told reporters: "It is very disappointing that the junior doctors' union are not engaging with the government.”
The development comes ahead of strikes by several trade unions on budget day, in what will be one of the biggest single days of strikes in years.
Workers walking out of their jobs include civil servants, teachers, university staff, London Underground drivers, and BBC journalists. There will also be a big protest in Westminster in support of the strikes.
NHS leaders have warned that the walkout will take disruption caused by recent strikes to the next level, posing a risk to patient safety.
As a far-fetched solution to the dispute, the government has introduced strike legislation in order to contain industrial actions in the country's key sectors, forcing the staff to maintain a basic level of service during strike time or face dismissal.