Junior doctors – who took strike action early last year – are back to the negotiating table next week with speedier action on their safer hours settlement on the agenda.

About 3000 house officers and registrars covered by the NZ Resident Doctors’ Association (RDA) and 20 District Health Boards collective agreement took three days of strike action in January 2017 and 48 hours in October 2016 over a call for safer rosters.  A one-year agreement was reached early last year – including new rostering rules to stop a junior doctor being rostered for more than 10 consecutive days or four consecutive nights – which expired at the end of February 2018.

The DHBs are currently in a stalemate with the about 27,000 nurses, midwives and health care assistants covered by the New Zealand Nurses Organisation collective agreement over pay and safe staffing with strike action also likely if there is not a breakthrough shortly.

Melissa Dobbyn, a RDA advocate, said bargaining representatives had had an one initial meeting with bargaining due to begin next week with pay a big issue this time round. In the last multi-employer collective agreement the parties agreed to a 1.5 per cent pay increase in return for new rostering rules.

“Definitely more needs to be invested into the doctors,” said Dobbyn.  She did not believe the NZNO negotiations would impact on the RDA talks.

She said work on implementing the new safer roster across the 20 DHBs was continuing with progress to date ‘mixed’ across the country.  “Implementation is not fast enough would be our view – they need to do this work far more quickly.”

As at January 30 this year 12 of the 20 DHBs had implemented the new roster system across 90 per cent or more of their house officer and registrar rosters. The least progress at that stage was at Waitemata and Counties Manukau DHBs (both with 20 per cent implementation) and Auckland (40 per cent). At the country’s other big DHBs progress was also mixed ranging from Capital & Coast DHB (the top with 95%), Mid-Central and Bay of Plenty (both 90%) followed by Canterbury and Hutt (both at 80%) and then Waikato and Southern (both at 50%).

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