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"Health boards bungle workers negotiations"

Tuesday 28 November 2006

"District health boards bungle laboratory workers negotiations"

"District health boards have bungled the laboratory workers collective agreement negotiations creating a debacle with serious risks of permanent disabilities and possible deaths to patients," said Mr Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, today. Mr Powell was responding to widespread concerns raised by senior doctors over the seven day strike commencing tomorrow.

"Their first bungle was to get the bright idea that laboratory workers would agree to an erosion of their salaries by only offering increases noticeably below inflation. Their miserable attitude makes Scrooge look like Santa Claus. This contemptuous attitude has provoked strike action from skilled and dedicated scientists and other laboratory workers whose work is critical to patient care and patient safety. Blackadder's Baldrick would be envious of this cunning plan."

"If this wasn't enough, the DHBs then adopted a minimalist approach to the plans they agreed to for the provision of life preserving services during the strike. The Employment Relations Act requires there to be agreed life preserving plans and also for an adjudicator with clinical expertise to resolve any differences."

"Resolving life preserving plans was always going to be very difficult for laboratories because their testing is often necessary to determine whether a patient's condition is life threatening or not. But in their folly the DHBs have agreed to plans which make this problematic and which also exclude the risk of permanent disability to patients such as loss of limbs. They even failed to use their agreed clinical expert to determine these difficulties."

"This is an extraordinary bungle by the DHBs. They have a separate agreement outside the legislation with the health unions affiliated to the Council of Trade Unions that life preserving services includes risks of permanent disability. Had they possessed the gumption they should have insisted upon the inclusion of permanent disability in developing the life preserving services plans. The fact that the Medical Laboratory Workers Union is not affiliated to the Council of Trade Unions is no excuse. If they could not have resolved this issue then they should have referred it to their agreed clinical adjudicator."

"DHBs have to take prime responsibility for this appalling outcome. They must now insist that the life preserving plans are applied in a sufficiently flexible way as to cover the risk of permanent disability as well as death to patients no matter how difficult this might be."

"The DHBs must also start treating their laboratory staff with respect and return to the negotiating table with proposals that will not erode their income and that should provide the basis for a satisfactory resolution."

"The DHBs got the health system into this mess and they must now make good and get us out of it," concluded Mr Powell.

ENDS


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