ACC members of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) did not turn up for work this morning in what is believed to be the second-only time senior doctors in New Zealand have taken strike action.

One striking doctor said it was the first time in their 28 years as a doctor and 14 years working for ACC that they had taken part in industrial action.

“Why? Because ACC, the organisation charged with the prevention, care and recovery from injury, cares so little for its workers. Sometimes you have to stand up and be valued,” said the doctor.

Another said they had taken action because ACC had blocked “three modest requests” during mediation with no counter offer. “It is stunning how undervalued this makes us feel.”

“We ask for three things: redundancy provisions matching those for 800 other ACC staff (ACC claims this is excessive); a 1 per cent pay rise (ACC claims other staff have got less); and a simple statement in support of the health and safety of staff. Why would ACC refuse even that?” said the second striking doctor.

ACC has reiterated that it is “more than happy to return to negotiations whenever ASMS are ready to do so” and also that ASMS was seeking salary increases and redundancy provisions “over and above all other ACC employees”.

Lloyd Woods, a Senior Industrial Officer for ASMS, said ASMS had made it very, very clear that it was happy to go back to the table when ACC was ready to have ‘sensible’ negotiations and not just say ‘no’ to the association’s options.

The doctors, who assess complex medical claims for ACC, took the action in support of their claims after eight months of talks and mediation failed to reach an agreement.

ACC in May announced a restructuring proposal to cut the medical advisory team from 36.4 full-time equivalents (FTE) to 30 while increasing the numbers of non-medical clinical advisors. A spokesperson said earlier this month that ACC was still considering consultation feedback and was aiming to respond to staff for the end of July.

Woods has said the union’s redundancy claim pre-dated the restructuring announcement.

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