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Public Sector Pay Restraint A ‘kick In The Teeth’

The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists Toi Mata Hauora says the Government’s ongoing public sector pay restraint is a kick in the teeth to senior doctors and dentists who keep core health services going and have kept New Zealanders safe and cared for during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a press release on the Government’s Workforce Policy Statement, Public Service Minister Chris Hipkins has ruled out pay increases for those earning over $100,000 for the next three years.

ASMS Executive Director Sarah Dalton says senior doctors and dentists will find it galling as it sends a harsh message to health professionals that they are not valued.

“On one hand the Government has been showering doctors and medical professional with bouquets for their response to Covid, and on the other it turns around and swings a very heavy brickbat. It doesn’t make sense”.

In real terms pay restraint will send salaries backwards by about two percent a year.

“No matter what you earn, not being able to keep up with inflation is unacceptable. Falling behind is not a fair expectation,” Sarah Dalton says.

The pay restraint announcement comes at a time when senior doctors and dentists are battling serious staffing shortages, cramped and outdated facilities, and steady increases in acute patient demand – all of which have been acknowledged by the Health Minister Andrew Little.

Sarah Dalton says with an estimated 60% pay gap with Australia and the trans-Tasman bubble now open, the Government is pushing up the risk of losing more of our highly trained and skilled specialists.

“I think we all know that as a country we can’t afford for that to happen. We need our doctors to stay in New Zealand as part of a skilled workforce which is essential to economic growth, productivity and our post-Covid recovery”.

The Government has also asked for clinical leadership and support in the implementation of its health reforms.

“That support is now likely to be compromised,” Sarah Dalton says.

ASMS is disappointed to see the Finance Minister abandoning the government’s wellbeing agenda in favour of an austerity programme.

“We know that most of our health investment is tied up in people – as it should be. Now is not the time to apply downward pressure on our health system’s most valuable health resource – its workforce”.

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