Does anybody remember when a normal working week was Monday to Friday, and if anybody wanted you to work on Saturday they paid one-and-a-half times as much as normal (time and a half), with Sunday work being paid a twice the normal rate (double time)?
Jeremy Hunt clearly didn’t, if he thought it was acceptable to reclassify Saturday work between 7am and 10pm as part of a junior doctor’s normal working week, payable at only the standard rate.
Those are the kind of working hours he would never consider himself – a situation highlighted in the letter by ‘Rachel’, published here on July 29. Alerting Mr Hunt that she intended to visit him at 3am, she wrote: “Really Mr Hunt, this is the 21st century and people have questions for their MPs 24 hours a day, not just during office hours. If I can buy a Tesco sandwich at 3am, I should be able to see a politician.”
She went on to point out the differences between what Mr Hunt was proposing for junior doctors and his own ministerial working conditions, as follows: “You should have anticipated that politics would become a 24/7 profession and if you won’t adapt, I’m going to just force your contract to change for no extra money.”
Ah, but MPs have just enjoyed an 11 per cent pay rise, haven’t they?
Jeremy Hunt has been forced into a partial climbdown in his dispute with NHS junior doctors in an attempt to stop their fury at a threatened punitive new contract spilling over into strike action.
The health secretary moved to defuse widespread anger at his threat to impose new terms and conditions on them by offering two major concessions and assurances that they will not see their pay cut or working hours extended.
Faced with England’s 53,000 junior doctors being balloted for industrial action, and amid growing unease at his handling of the row, Hunt has indicated that he is willing to rethink his plan to reclassify working on Saturday between 7am and 10pm as part of a junior doctor’s normal working week for which they would be paid at only the standard rate.
He has also pledged that existing financial incentives for recently qualified young doctors to go into emergency medicine or general practice – two areas struggling with too few medics – will continue so that the new contract does not exacerbate the existing shortages.
In a detailed and emollient letter to Dr Johann Malawana, the chair of the British Medical Association’s junior doctors committee, Hunt also sought to banish widely held fears that junior doctors – whose vital contribution to the NHS he lauded – would soon have to start working the 90-hour weeks that their predecessors did.
According to the Graun, Mr Hunt’s letter not only says that the new contract definitely will neither cut pay nor introduce longer hours for junior doctors. It’s a bizarre claim to make, for the reasons This Writer has pointed out in the introductory paragraphs to this article: If imposed, the new contract will see weekday evenings and Saturdays up until 10pm reclassified as normal working hours. Doctors are currently paid extra to work outside normal working hours and the reclassification will clearly eliminate those extra payments. Furthermore, as the NHS wage bill is said not to be changed by the proposed new contract, it seems clear that somebody will be asked to work extra hours as well.
But Mr Hunt goes on to blame the BMA for trainee medics believing that it would do in the first place
“I am saddened by the distress being caused to junior doctors who were misled by the calculator on the BMA website into believing that their pay will be cut by 30% and that they will be asked to work many more hours each week,” his letter says.
Graun health policy editor Denis Campbell points out: “It is doubtful whether blaming the BMA – which has gained 5,000 new members in just 10 days until earlier this week – will persuade many to see it his way, especially given doctors’ widespread distrust of him.
“Some will surely see this as a classic divide-and-rule attempt to outwit a trade union.”
Divide and rule is the Tory way, after all. They get it from the Nazis.
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