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Employment Relations Amendment Bill Disappointing

21 March 2014

Employment Relations Amendment Bill Disappointing

“The health sector will be worse off if the Employment Relations Amendment Bill, which had its second reading this week, passes into law,” said Mr Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, today.

“It’s very disappointing that such an unfair, poor piece of legislation has made it this far,” he says. “It has the potential to cause significant disruption in the health sector by removing a number of important protections for the clinical workforce, and we had hoped the people pushing it through Parliament would have come to their senses by now.”

Mr Powell says three aspects of the bill, in particular, would affect senior doctors employed by district health boards:
• Removing the obligation to conclude a collective agreement negotiation.
• Allowing employers to opt out of a multi-employer collective agreement negotiation.
• Removing protection for newly-appointed people in their first 30 days on the job.

“New Zealand relies heavily on having a professional, skilled clinical workforce made up of people who are committed to delivering the best possible health care,” says Mr Powell.

“Under the current Employment Relations Act, senior doctors are assured of nationally consistent entitlements across the DHBs in terms of salaries, professional development, annual leave and the right to take part in public discussion of health. These things are particularly important for doctors moving here from overseas, who may not be fully aware of New Zealand’s employment conditions until they are actually living and working here.”

“But this bill, if it becomes law, threatens these rights of senior doctors. It will encourage a more adversarial approach to employment relations in the health sector, which will lead to unwarranted variations in what senior doctors are paid and the conditions they work in.”

Mr Powell says this will inevitably affect senior doctors’ relationships with each other and with the DHBs they work in, which will in turn affect patient services and the smooth running of the health sector, as well as placing additional stress on hospital specialists.

“The current law has provided a good framework for systematically working through difficult issues in the health sector,” concluded Mr Powell.


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