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Resident Doctors' Interest-Based Bargaining Process Begins

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The interest-based bargaining (IBB) process agreed to by DHBs and their resident medical officers (RMOs) - represented by the Resident Doctors Association (RDA) - to progress pay negotiations begins tomorrow (Wednesday 12 January) in Auckland.

Around 50 RMOs and DHB clinical and service managers, assisted by facilitators from the Department of Labour's Partnership Resource Centre, will meet over three days to focus on ways to secure the desired future, address issues around flexibility and innovation at work and ways to attain the best work-life balance for RMOs. A further three days are scheduled for the beginning of February.

The IBB process is designed to support the ongoing negotiations (over the last 12 months) to replace the lapsed national Multi Employer Collective Agreement (MECA).

Last September, given a lack of progress in following traditional bargaining approaches, the DHBs proposed an interest-based process to explore the issues facing the DHBs and the RMO workforce and find mutually agreeable solutions.

In the interim, DHBs offered a 2% increase to RMOs' salaries, with no other changes to employment conditions. This was accepted by RMOs last December.

"We are pleased the RMOs have agreed to the interest-based bargaining process as a constructive way of moving forward in the New Year and a recognition that the status quo was not acceptable," says DHB spokesperson for negotiations, Karen Roach.

"We are optimistic that through positive dialogue we can look at the possibilities for change that would meet everyone's expectations.

"DHBs believe it is time to embrace changes to the way we interact for mutual benefit to the RMOs and the efficient delivery of health services."

She says RMOs are a workforce in training and the DHBs, as their employers, must seek out ways to balance training needs with the needs of patients. Senior Medical Staff play a large part in training RMOs; therefore need a greater input into the way they are trained in the system.

"We hope to achieve good levels of engagement and discussion over the next three days as a step in the right direction for all," Mrs Roach says.



How many resident medical officers are covered by the MECA

About 3100 resident medical officers (RMOs) employed by DHBs are covered by a single national Multi-Employer Collective Agreement (MECA). The union representing RMOs is the NZ Resident Doctors Association (RDA).

What is the make-up of the RMO workforce?

According to the Medical Council of New Zealand's survey, of the 2,659 RMOs registered in New Zealand 64 percent were New Zealand graduates. Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of the RMO workforce were in Registrar positions.

When did the current agreement expire?

The current MECA expired at the end of December 2009 and its provisions lapsed on 31 December 2010. In accordance with the Employment Relations Act, all RMOs moved onto Individual Employment Agreements from 1 January 2011.

What is the current status of negotiations?

The RDA has accepted the DHBs' offer of 2 percent on base pay rates to apply from 1 October 2010 and has agreed to enter into an interest-based bargaining process to explore with DHBs some creative solutions to the issues facing this workforce.

Workshops will be held on the following themes:

RMO training

flexibility/health service transformation


retention of a predominantly NZ-trained medical workforce

RMO work-life balance and job satisfaction.

The RDA has undertaken not to take any form of industrial action in the period up to 31 January 2011.

What is the purpose of the workshops?

The workshops will provide a forum in which the various 'sticking points' can be discussed, with the aim of enabling more clarity to be reached on those issues.

They will focus on interests, not positions, and 'win-win' solutions will be sought where possible. The process will, as far as possible, be fact-based and research or information gathering may be jointly commissioned to inform the sessions.

If agreement can't be reached, will RMOs strike?

That decision is for the RDA to make. DHBs are committed to working with the RDA with a desire to avoid strike action. The RDA has accepted the DHBs' offer of 2 percent on base pay rates and has agreed to explore with DHBs some creative solutions to the issues facing this workforce. While this process is underway, the RDA has undertaken not to take any form of industrial action in the period up to 31 January 2011.

What are the new initiatives developed to recruit and retain doctors?

Further detail about the new initiatives is available at

Initiatives relevant to RMOs include:

Voluntary bonding scheme: The voluntary bonding scheme offers an incentive payment to reward graduates who agree to work in hard to staff areas. It is now in its second year and has proved very successful.

Medical careers guidance: HWNZ has developed a medical careers guidance service which offers RMOs and medical students the opportunity to have individualised careers advice from a panel of senior colleagues, in addition to the information and careers support offered by colleges, employers and education.

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