26 Feb 2019

Junior doctors back on strike and in mediation today

12:53 pm on 26 February 2019

Junior doctors will be back on strike at 8am this morning for 48 hours.

Junior doctors striking outside Wellington Hospital today.

Junior doctors striking outside Wellington Hospital last month. Photo: RNZ / Karen Brown

But in a potential glimmer of hope in the deep employment row, doctors and their bosses will be back in mediation today as well.

Members of the Resident Doctors' Association will be off work at all public hospitals except West Coast until 8am on Thursday.

That's also the day their employment deal with the 20 district health boards (DHB), which has already expired, lapses.

After this, if there's still no agreement, DHBs could offer any Resident Doctors' Association (RDA) member who changes employment as part of their training an individual employment contract with new conditions.

RDA senior advocate, David Munro, said yesterday: "We're a bit closer, but no less determined."

Both sides have, however, confirmed they will be in mediator-assisted bargaining in Auckland today.

There was a similar session last Thursday.

Dr Kathryn Foster, who works at Auckland DHB, is going on strike today.

She told Morning Report doctors just want protections in place to work safety.

"We've engaged in a negotiation in which we've systematically given up protection after protection in our attempts to endeavour to get the settlement with the DHBs and they have systematically refused to engage with us on any of our issues."

Dr Richard Storey won't be striking. He said fatigue management was an issue, particularly in his area of surgical care.

"Both unions agree that 16 hours is the max in a day, in a shift and 72 hours is the max in a week and we've agreed contractually on that."

He said fatigue management goes beyond rostering.

Today marks six weeks since the first 48-hour strike by the resident medical officers, or junior doctors, over proposed changes by their employers to their complex employment agreement.

It is necessarily not the longest strike experienced by DHBs. RNZ understands junior doctors went on strike for six weeks in Southland 20 years ago.

At issue this time is whether the RDA should retain a power of veto over some key roster or work-related changes by doctors or whether those changes should be made instead by local DHBs in consultation with the doctors concerned.

Last week DHBs asked the Employment Relations Authority to intervene.

District health boards accused the Resident Doctors' Association of breaching its legal obligation to act in good faith by making statements in public and/or to its members "that are inaccurate and therefore misleading and/or deceptive".

DHBs also said the RDA had undermined bargaining by "passing inaccurate information about the bargaining to a third party which is publicly criticising the applicants' bargaining position". DHBs named the third party as the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists.

There's been no comment from the Employment Relations Authority as to whether it will investigate the complaint. All it has said is that its determinations made public online are available on the Employment Law Database three days after the parties involved are notified of the outcome.

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