Lloyd Woods, Senior Industrial Officer at the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS), which represents the 39 senior doctors covered by the collective agreement, said it was only the second time in memory that senior doctors anywhere in New Zealand “have had to resort to strike action in order to be taken seriously”.

The medical advisors, who provide specialised medical advice on ACC claims, have voted for a series of rolling stoppages for four hours at a time, on one day a week, for five weeks starting from Tuesday 17 July. An ACC spokesperson said it was disappointed not to have reached an agreement with ASMS, negotiations continued and it recognised the right for ASMS members to strike.

Woods said ASMS and ACC had been in talk for the past eight months over the agreement, which expired at the end of 2017, and their claims include upgrading their redundancy deal to the same as offered to ACC employees under the Public Service Association collective agreement, the insertion of a well-being statement, and a 1 per cent per year salary increase.

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 today that ACC was still considering consultation feedback and was aiming to respond to staff for the end of July.

Woods said that the industrial action was not related to the restructuring with the ASMS’s redundancy and other collective agreement claims pre-dating any notion of the restructuring proposal.

He said two-thirds of the public sector, including district health board senior doctors, currently had a  6 + 2 redundancy package (six weeks’ base salary for the first year of service + two weeks’ base salary for every additional year of service up to a maximum number of years). But ASMS was seeking to match the current PSA ACC collective agreement offer which was a ‘5 + 2.5’ deal.

ACC said the main reason negotiations had stalled was ASMS claims for salary increases and redundancy provisions were over and above those offered to other ACC employees.

Woods said it had put three different agreement term length options to ACC with the longest option a 2.5-year claim that included the salary increase and redundancy claims plus two hours protected time a week for non-claims work and a statement about the importance of staff wellbeing.

“It beggars belief that ACC, with all of its aims, refuses to include a statement about wellbeing. This is a case of walk the talk, said Woods. He said members were already feeling vulnerable over the restructuring proposal and the lack of progress in their collective agreement talks had caused further frustration and stress.

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