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Striking junior doctors rally in Newcastle as thousands of medics, teachers, civil servants and BBC radio staff head for picket lines on unprecedented day

Chronicle Live logo Chronicle Live 15/03/2023 Sam Volpe

Junior doctors descended on Newcastle's Monument in force on Wednesday at the culmination of a mammoth day of strike action which saw teachers, tax collectors and BBC local radio staff among thousands on picket lines around the region.

As the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt gave what has been described as a "back to work" budget, junior doctors were marching from the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle to the city centre landmark. The striking British Medical Association (BMA) medics were joined by members of the UCU and PCS unions on an almost unprecedented day of strike action.

This was during the third day of a 72-hour walkout from doctors around the region - amid a pay dispute which has seen juniors demand the Government "restores" their pay to levels seen in 2008. The BMA says, in real terms, doctor pay has fallen 26% since then.

Read more: 'We're not worth 26% less' - Junior doctors hit out a pay erosion on first day of NHS strike action

Junior doctors

After marching from the hospital, thousands of striking doctors heard speakers including BMA rep Martin Whyte, supportive consultant John Hanley and junior doctor Zeynep Elcioglu. Each called on the Government to properly fund doctors and the NHS or face worsening patient safety and medics fleeing to better paid jobs in Australia.

Martin said: "I'm overwhelmingly proud to see so many of you today. This industrial action is first and foremost about pay, but it's also fundamentally about junior doctors."

Speaking to doctors in the crowd who had "worked harder and harder" while pay "had fallen further and further", he added: "Every day all of you do incredible things. Medicine has this funny way of normalising the incredible and making the exceptional seem routine.

"It might be your routine ward round, routine clinic or routine pager list. But to that patient whose hip you've repaired or that mum whose baby you delivered, nothing you do is routine. For too long you've been taken for granted."

Zeynep said: "I'm very angry. For a really long time I forgot this wasn't normal. For a really long time I forgot that - because I was made to believe that this is what I was worth, that I was only worth £14 an hour. But you guys are reminding me and everyone else here today and you will continue to remind everyone else that we are worth so much more."

John, who recalled making a similar address at the last junior doctors' strike in 2016, added: "Consultants support juniors. It's fantastic to be here with you lot." He said it was a privilege to be speaking with junior doctors and: "This strike has been very successful and I take my hat off to the junior doctors who have organised this."

He criticised the Chancellor for "changing his tune" when it comes to supporting the NHS and added: "The doctors are organised. The doctors are angry. And they deserve a decent wage and proper funding for the NHS."


Teacher and Union Rep Simon Egan on strike St. Mary's Catholic School in Benton © Iain Buist / Newcastle Chronicle Teacher and Union Rep Simon Egan on strike St. Mary's Catholic School in Benton

Members of the teaching union the National Education Union (NEU) also began a two-day walkout on Tuesday. Simon Egan, a union rep at St Mary's Catholic School in Benton told ChronicleLive he was striking to "protect education".

He said: "We have been through a long period of austerity. Budgets at schools are really really tight. And people's budgets are really really tight too, with 10% inflation. I think it's right that teachers get a fair wage and there needs to be money for that.

"It can't come out of existing school budgets. Public services and public sector workers across the country all have a very similar issue."

Simon explained that the NEU was standing in solidarity with trade union colleagues too. Many schools across the North East are either fully or partially closed as the education sector gets to grips with the industrial action.


Prospect Union members strike outside HMRC at Benton Park View in Newcastle © Iain Buist / Newcastle Chronicle Prospect Union members strike outside HMRC at Benton Park View in Newcastle

Civil servants are also among those striking. Outside of the His Majesty's Revenue and Customs site at Benton Park View, Vicky Lee from the Prospect union said: "We are here partly because we have problems today with pay. The pay is linked to the pensions so this is about lifelong financial consequences for people.

"A lot of people have hit the point where there is nothing left to give. They're at the absolute poverty line. And we need to be paid fairly for the work we are doing."

Vicky said the action was "about the future of the civil service" - as issues with pay and conditions meant that it was increasingly difficult to recruit and retain staff. "These are the people who sorted out furlough claims, who sorted out pension claims," she said.

BBC Local

Myles Ashby © Craig Connor/ChronicleLive Myles Ashby

BBC Radio and Look North Television staff, who are members of the NUJ, stood together on the picket line outside the BBC building during a 24 hour strike against cuts to BBC Radio Newcastle and other BBC local radio stations around England.

Radio Newcastle NUJ representative Myles Ashby said: "The reason we are going out on strike today is because the BBC is proposing to cut 50 per cent of our programmes and we think that is far too much.

"We believe we can still provide our listeners with a great service. We don't need to reduce our content to provide more services online, we think we can do both and we think this is a big mistake.

"We would like to think they will think again. It is not just radio who have gone out on strike, we have also had fantastic support from our colleagues in TV and online. There won't be any Look North programmes throughout today so that is also a big hit for the BBC so hopefully they will listen."

Myles said they don't want to stop more digital provision but they believe there is a "better" and "smarter" way to do it.



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