By Sidra Jadgal and Zygimantas Mascinskas
All four Eastlondonlines boroughs have been affected by the major national strikes by teachers, junior doctors and Transport for London staff in a dispute over pay, pensions, job cuts, and working conditions.
Unions estimate half-a-million workers walked out on today outside government offices, schools, hospitals, universities and TfL stations in the biggest walkout in years.
Here is an overview of the specific areas of strikes happening across Croydon, Hackney, Lewisham and Tower Hamlets.
Junior doctors across the country are on a walk-out yesterday, today and tomorrow. It’s estimated that the salaries of junior doctors have been cut by 25 per cent in real term since 2008. This has made it harder to recruit and keep the staff at hospitals.
Government plans to fund the NHS have not met the desired target of the unions. The British Medical Association (BMA) has organised a 72-hour walkout to put pressure on the government to meet their demands.
Arav Gupta, Anesthetics CT2 Doctor at University Hospital Lewisham, told ELL: “Sadly, today’s NHS is chronically underfunded, understaffed and under-appreciated from years of inefficient and insufficient spending from successive governments.”
He points out that the doctors care about the future of the NHS and are going on strikes because underfunding and understaffed situations make young doctors leave their profession.
The strikes have led to reduced services in hospitals across London, leaving staff struggling with the demand.
Arav continues: “Hospitals are affected, of course. However, senior doctors [consultants] are not affected by this strike and are hard at work during these 72 hours. They fully back our actions and are stepping down into junior roles to ensure emergency and urgent care continues to be delivered for those most in need during this time.”
GPs and dentists in Tower Hamlets are facing increased pressure on the provision of medical care to patients in need today. Tracy Cannel, Joint Chief Executive at GP Care Group Tower Hamlets, told ELL: “The strikes put more pressure back on primary care, but everybody is working very hard to make sure that care for the patients that are coming forward are getting help.”
No service on almost the entire London Underground today 15 and travellers were advised by TfL to allow extra time when choosing alternative travel arrangements, such as buses, Dockland’s Light Railway (DLR) or the Elizabeth Line which are operating ‘good service’.
London Underground and TfL workers from RMT and ASLEF unions are collected in a dispute over job cuts, pensions and working conditions.
Glynn Barton, TfL’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “I apologise to our customers for any disruption caused by Wednesday’s industrial action. I urge the trade unions to call off this action and continue to engage with us to avoid disruption to our customers.”
TfL couldn’t guarantee that all stations were open on the lines running good service as some of the tube station workers were participating in the strike action. Train could not stop at stations that were closed.
A national rail strike is planned to take place tomorrow. London Underground is set to be running as normal, but TfL said it would take longer than usual to resume services after a long strike.
The strikes caused major traffic jams across the city due to more people using buses or taxi services as their alternatives. One bus could not handle the overload and went on fire, causing service disruptions and making commuters frustrated even more.
The strike by teachers was organised by the National Education Union (NEU), whose members voted to take strike action for a pay rise. The strike is being held nationwide today and tomorrow.
The vote for strike action came from staff in 23,400 different schools and this resulted in the largest vote for strike action that has been carried out by any union in the UK.
The joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU) explained this demonstration had proved teachers’ strong support for strikes and increased backing from parents, despite them having to make arrangements to look after their children due to closed schools.
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, told PA: “We are striking for the education service, and parents understand very well what is at stake. Through serial neglect, and over more than a decade, this Government has driven schools and colleges into the ground.”
Emma Thurston, Headteacher at Deptford Green School, told ELL: “Whilst we are obviously not in support of students missing out on important learning time, as a senior team we took the decision to not undermine the strike action in any way as it is important that the government take note that funding in schools is a concern and needs addressing immediately.”
According to NEU, most teachers are being offered a 5% pay rise, which is below the level of inflation. The pay of the teachers has also been cut by 23% since 2010.
Today also saw lecturers from local universities resume their strike action after talks with universities had failed to reach a breakthrough. The strike is organised by The University And College Union (UCU) joined by 150 universities across the country including local universities like Queen Mary and Goldsmiths.
Strikes are being held due to disputes about pay, work conditions and pensions. The UCU have confirmed that more than 70,000 lecturers are striking throughout the country.
Goldsmiths UCU will hold a series of anti-fascist events on the picket line tomorrow.