12 May 2022

Senior doctors' union becoming 'increasingly angry and frustrated' by pay talks

9:32 am on 12 May 2022

Senior doctors could be the next health workers to walk off the job, with their union boss writing an angry letter saying pay talks are becoming impossible.

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That would make them the latest in a growing list of frustrated health workers to take action.

Association of Salaried Medical Specialists president Julian Vyas wrote to doctors this week to update them on pay talks.

He was becoming "increasingly angry and frustrated" by the negotiations, he told them.

The DHBs appear to have adopted a "siege mentality" and were stalling as they waited for Health NZ to be fully established, he said.

Health NZ would be established from 1 July to replace the district health boards but the transition would be gradual, with DHB bosses in place til the end of September.

The change could leave doctors in limbo after a year of pay negotiations.

Vyas, who is a paediatrician, said he wanted both sides to reach a fair settlement but, if not, the doctors may have no choice but to resort to industrial action.

Allied health workers, like physios, pharmacists, lab workers, and psychologists were already working to rule and were set to strike next Thursday over pay.

Nurses were in a dispute about resolving the fact they had been historically underpaid because they are mostly women.

Vyas said the DHBs were eroding the good will that was keeping the besieged health system running.

"It beggars belief as to why our health employers are going out of their way to alienate large parts of their workforce who will be critical to the success of the upcoming health reforms and the recently formulated planned care taskforce," he said in the letter.

The doctors and the DHBs going back into formal bargaining tomorrow.

Executive director of the association Sarah Dalton said she regularly met with senior doctors who were angry and fed up with the pay and conditions, especially after doing so much during the pandemic.

Details of what was on the table could not be revealed because of the rules of facilitation, she said.

Any industrial action would have to be voted on first but could include everything from stop work meetings to strikes.

A spokesperson for DHBs issued a statement saying it was respecting the confidentiality of the facilitation process with the Association of Senior Medical Specialists and would not discuss the matter publicly at this stage.

DHBs recognised the critical nature of all their people who delivered services to the public and were committed to working constructively with health professionals and their representatives to improve the delivery of quality healthcare, the statement said.

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