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Phew is the reaction from Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) to the news that the Employment Relations Authority will undertake a ‘facilitation’ of the long-running toxic industrial dispute between the 20 district health boards (DHBs) and the Resident Doctors’ Association (RDA) representing resident (junior) doctors.

Facilitation is a provision in the Employment Relations Act which enables the Employment Relations Authority, on application from an employer or union, to intervene in a collective agreement negotiation that has gone off the rails. It is a persuasive form of non-binding arbitration. In this case the RDA applied to the Authority for facilitation. The DHBs’ original submission opposed the application but did a last-minute U-turn to support it.

“This dispute has been very bitter and divisive. It is doing long-term damage to relationships which risk further increasing the high level (around 20%) of specialist shortages in public hospitals,” says Mr Powell.

“It’s been clear for some time that external involvement of this sort would be needed to break the impasse between the DHBs and the resident (junior) doctors.

“It’s to be hoped that calmer heads will prevail in sorting out this dispute from here on.

“Hospital specialists will be very relieved to hear the issues are going to be heard by an independent facilitator. They’ve been struggling to cope with increased workloads and stress as a result of this protracted, acrimonious dispute.”

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