Doctors strike: More than 5000 senior doctors, dentists to strike on Tuesday, more planned

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More than 5000 senior doctors and dentists will strike on Tuesday after failed mediation with Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand. Photo / 123rf

The unprecedented senior doctors and dentists strike will go ahead next week after a weekend of failed mediation between Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand and the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS).

The strike will take place nationwide on Tuesday from midday until 2pm at public hospitals and other health facilities where senior medical officers work.

It will include an estimated 5,500 doctors and 100 dentists.

If mediation fails again after this, a further strike between 10am and 12pm on September 13 has also been confirmed, as well as a four-hour strike on another date.


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Some 250 planned medical operations will be postponed, in addition to outpatient visits during the strike.

Sarah Dalton, chief executive of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS), told the Herald that this was the first time the union had gone on a nationwide strike.

Chief executive of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists Sarah Dalton.
Chief executive of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists Sarah Dalton.

Dalton stated that members wanted pay increases in line with the consumers price index (CPI) and expressed optimism that Te Whatu Ora would “think again” in light of the strike action.

“Some of our members tell us, they reckon the senior staffing levels during those that hour or two will be as good as if not better than what it normally would be,” she claimed.


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Dalton made it clear that life-saving measures for patients would not be affected in any way.

Chief people officer at Te Whatu Ora, Andrew Slater, said they are “frustrated and extremely disappointed” that the ASMS is refusing to take the latest offer for settlement to their members for consideration.

Te Whatu Ora has claimed they have offered senior doctors and dentists salary increases over the next year of between 7 per cent and 12.9 per cent. This amounts to an increase of between $15,000 and $26,000.

“We have been clear with the union that we have put all that we can on the table. To invest more would involve having to make funding reprioritisations elsewhere,” Slater said.

“We’ve also been clear that a protracted dispute will distract us all from getting on with the job of working on solutions for a range of workforce challenges.”

Dalton has hit back, claiming this was not the offer put on the table.

“I can tell you now that if we, if what they have put on the table would have offered, annualised, that level of increase to our members, we would have snapped it up, but it’s not,” Dalton said.

She also believes the $15,000 and $26,000 figures factored in pay increases already stipulated in a 15-year process all public sector doctors are put on when they begin their speciality.

“It’s just part of the landscape, it’s a service-based increase, they have built in the value of that increase into what they claim is the value of the settlement,” Dalton said.

“I find it really disappointing when an organisation, like, tries to put responsibility for its systems-level failings onto the shoulders of individual doctors or health workers.”


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Te Whatu Ora claimed senior medical officers, New Zealand’s most experienced and well-trained doctors, have an average total salary of $318,000 including additional payments for shift work and superannuation.

Dalton said she had yet to meet a doctor in New Zealand that earned that much, and wondered where the figure was coming from.

On Monday last week, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said the best way to resolve the dispute with senior doctors was to get back around the bargaining table.

Hipkins said he didn’t want to see any medical staff on strike, and Te Whatu Ora would have contingency plans in place.

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