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Most People Support Junior Doctors And Ambulance Staff Going On Strike

Most voters are supportive of industrial action by junior doctors (Alamy)

3 min read

A new poll for PoliticsHome has found that a majority of the public are supportive of strikes by junior doctors and ambulance workers ahead of a further wave of industrial action.

The poll by Redfield & Wilton Strategies, who surveyed 1,500 eligible voters across Great Britain on 23 February found that 47 per cent were supportive of upcoming strike action by junior doctors, compared to just 27 per cent who oppose it.

The British Medical Association has announced that junior doctors will walk out for 72 hours on 13,14 and 15 March due to concerns around pay and work conditions.

The union said junior doctors, who account for more than 40 per cent of the medical workforce, were "demoralised, angry and no longer willing to work for wages that have seen a real terms decline of over 26 per cent in the past 15 years".

Both Downing Street and Health Secretary Steve Barclay said it was "deeply disappointing" that junior doctors had voted for strike action.

But the exclusive poll for PoliticsHome found most voters were supportive of the strike action, while a further 23 per cent were neither supportive or opposed to the plans.

But the figures found that Conservative voters were likely to be opposed to the strike action, with a total of 41 per cent opposed to some extent, compared to just 35 per cent who were either supportive or strongly supportive.

The poll also found that most voters were supportive of the wave of industrial action by ambulance workers which has been ongoing since last year, with 48 per cent either supportive or strongly supportive, compared to 27 per cent who were opposed to some extent.

The figures will add further pressure to ministers who have in many cases refused to engage with unions over their demands, which include above inflation pay rises and changes to their working conditions. Earlier this week the Royal College of Nurses called off planned strikes after the government agreed to negotiate over pay. 

Asked whether they believed ministers were addressing strikes with "urgency", 43 per cent said they either disagreed or strongly disagreed, compared to just 30 per cent who agreed that ministers were putting enough energy into breaking the deadlocks.

The poll found voters did not believe Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was addressing the issues behind the strikes, with exactly half saying he was only slightly involved in attempting to resolve the labour disputes, compared to just 23 per cent who said he was fairly involved and just 7 per cent who said he was extremely involved.

Responding to news of the junior doctors' strikes, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson, said: "The health and social care secretary has met with the BMA and other medical unions to discuss pay, conditions and workload. He’s been clear he wants to continue discussing how we can make the NHS a better place to work for all."

Shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Ashworth said it was an "abdication of responsibility" by ministers for "refusing to engage in meaningful negotiation".

He added: "And I don't want to see these strikes go ahead let me be clear, the Labour Party doesn't want to see strikes go ahead, we want to see Rishi Sunak and his ministers negotiate seriously with NHS staff."

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