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“Senior Doctors Vote For Unprecedented Strike”

“Senior Doctors Vote For Unprecedented Strike”

“Senior doctors employed by the South Canterbury District Health Board have voted for unprecedented strike action in a secret postal ballot following a breakdown in collective agreement negotiations,” said Mr Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, today. The response rate was 84% with 68% voting in favour of strike action.

“This is the first time that senior doctors will have taken strike action in New Zealand which demonstrates how serious the situation is. The main disputed issue is the failure of management to recognise the considerable work pressure and stress that senior doctors are routinely subjected to. This includes being required to work on dangerous high frequency after-hours emergency rosters with minimal staff support. Management seriously under-estimates how much pressure and stress is imposed on senior doctors and how vulnerable Timaru Hospital is to a staffing crisis.”

“The strike action is limited to non-urgent (elective) services for five 6-hour strikes over a five week period commencing at 9am on Monday 3 February, Tuesday 11 February, Wednesday 19 February, Thursday 27 February and Friday 7 March. During the strikes routine elective services (eg, lists, clinics, ward rounds, administration) will be cancelled. But emergency cover will continue to be provided and there will be no need to transfer patients.”

“We are authorised to cancel the strike action in the event that good progress was to be subsequently made through negotiations or that management agreed to our request to refer the disputed issues to independent arbitration. To date management has refused to accept our call for independent arbitration because of philosophic grounds. However, we have asked them to reconsider independent arbitration and put pragmatism ahead of philosophy.”

“We hope that management will respond to the seriousness of the situation by either addressing the recognition of work pressures or agreeing to independent arbitration. In the event that managerial intransigence and pride forces senior doctors to take strike action for which the first decision is always the hardest they will lose their industrial virginity. And once you lose virginity you never get it back,” concluded Mr Powell.

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