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Resident Doctors Set to Strike Again

Media Release

7pm - 7 November 2016

New Zealand Resident Doctors’ Association

Resident Doctors Set to Strike Again

Following a 48 hour strike on the 18th and 19th of October 2016, Resident Doctors are set to strike again, frustrated at the failure of DHBs to meaningfully progress settlement to achieve safer rostering. Although the DHBs have made another offer, it is seriously deficient in addressing the doctor’s concerns. “We have explained to the DHBs why their offer is not acceptable and made some suggestions as to how it might be improved, but they have been unable to respond to us in mediation today,” says Dr Deborah Powell, National Secretary of the New Zealand Resident Doctors’ Association (NZRDA).

The main problems with the offer are in summary:

1. The DHBs offer to pay $200 for each weekend worked is offset by a reduction in salary of around $10,000 (depending on seniority of Resident Medical Officer (RMO)). This will result in a net pay cut of between $5000 and $7000 on rosters NZRDA has tested so far. The more senior the doctor is, the greater the pay cut; and

2. There is still insufficient contractual commitment by the DHBs to safer rostering; and

3. There is only an “expectation” that safer rosters will be in force within 6 months and a requirement for local DHB by DHB negotiation as to what that roster may look like.

In more detail….

Net Cut in Pay

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The DHBs have proposed a system that would see thousands of dollars being deducted from each RMO’s salary, far out of proportion to the number or value of rostered days off they may get under safer hours rostering.

In return for a cut in salary of around $10,000, the DHBs have offered $200 per weekend day worked. This is a flat rate to be paid regardless of the doctors level of experience from first year qualified to 10 years or more experience as a doctor. This will result in a net pay cut of between $5000 and $7000 on rosters NZRDA has tested so far.

A minority of doctors depending on roster and salary band however, could end up being paid more as their salary will not change, but they will still receive the $200 per weekend payment under the proposal tabled by the DHBs.

“The system proposed by the DHBs is simply not fair” says Dr Powell, National Secretary of NZRDA “not only are more senior doctors disproportionately disadvanataged, most RMOs will have a greater sum deducted than anything near the financial value of the the days off. The DHBs appear to be using the Doctors desire for safer rosters and the nature of their salary model to make money on this deal.”

In March, NZRDA and the DHBs agreed to a remuneration review to resolve these issues over the next year, to avoid the unintended consequences inherent in trying to partially unbundle the RMOs salary system. “That offer is still on the table” says Dr Powell, “and is the only sensible and fair way to address this issue.”

Insufficient Contractual Commitment to Safer Rosters

The DHBs have still not contractually commited to safer rosters. The offer is full of “may” and “shall endeavour” references. Specifically:

• No guaranteed recovery days after nights have been offered as part of the contract. The DHBs have refered to a non-contractual guideline but won’t commit to any specific number of days off. “If they are genuine about recovery after nights before the doctor returns to work, why not put that commitment into the contract?“ says Dr Powell.

• The DHBs are seeking to have single days off which are neither meaningful nor recuperative to the doctor. Worse still, the DHBs are seeking to count the day we start nights as a rostered day off. “This is not a day off,” says Dr Powell, “it is a day where, by necessity of the night shift we are about to start we spend it in bed or napping as much as possible. It is not a genuine day off”.

• The DHBs are seeking to be able to require RMOs to work 3 out of 6 weekends. Currently many RMOs work a maximum of 1 in 3 weekends, a heavy load of weekend work, but the DHBs are seeking to increase this so doctors could have to work every second weekend. “The impact on the doctor’s personal lives and that of their families would be horrific if they had to work not just consecutive weekends but 50% of all weekends in a year.” says Dr Powell.

Guaranteed Completion Date

The DHBs have still not commited to a completion date, instead offering an “expectation” that the process will take 6 months. That process is to involve negotiation in each DHB between the doctors and their management over what the roster will look like, with the DHBs demanding the right to ultimately decide. “After nearly five years and now this dispute, the doctors simply do not trust the DHBs to get this right” says Dr Powell.

Impending Strike Action

NZRDA has a mandate to issue strike notice for another 48 hour period commencing 0700hrs on November 23.

This time our newly qualified doctors will be joining the strike. “Whilst we had hoped to get the new rosters agreed before another graduating class was exposed to the old unsafe system, that simply has not been possible “says Dr Powell, “This bargaining has become so protracted it became inevitable if we didn’t get settlement this week that this would be the outcome. However, our new colleagues have been following the issue closely and also voted overwhelmingly to take strike action.” Of the 463 graduating doctors this year, 420 are amongst the 3425 members of NZRDA.


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