10 Nov 2016

DHBs go to court to stop junior doctors strike

4:37 pm on 10 November 2016

New Zealand's District Health Boards (DHBs) have gone to the Employment Court in an effort to stop junior doctors from going on strike again in a fortnight.

Christchurch Junior Doctors Strike

Christchurch doctors on the picket line during the first strike last month. Photo: RNZ / Andrew Collins

Mediation talks between the doctors and DHBs broke down at the start of the week, with both at loggerheads over how doctors should be compensated for changes aimed at making their rosters safer.

The doctors are scheduled to begin their second 48-hour strike on 23 November.

The Resident Doctors' Association said the DHBs had applied for an urgent injunction, because the strike included newly-graduated doctors.

It said the DHBs were also arguing the ballot on strike action should have been taken separately for each health board.

Association national secretary Deborah Powell said the strike should be avoided through mediation, not legal action.

"There's an element of sour grapes here. I think that's a bit unfortunate.

"I really do think that we need to get back to the bargaining table, that the district health boards need to focus on what's actually going to settle the dispute, because this legal action will not stop strike action, it will at best delay it."

Dr Powell said the strike could be pushed back into the busy Christmas and New Year period.

In a statement, the DHBs said they were seriously concerned about medical students who were due to start their formal paid training at DHBs the week after the strike.

"Many of the students will miss out on the compulsory orientation the week of the action if the current strike notices are deemed to be valid.

"In addition, some first-year house officers may fail to meet their time commitment for Medical Council registration if they participate in a further strike before November 28."

The lead chief executive for the DHBs, Julie Patterson, said there was also concern that the union had only conducted one ballot across 20 DHBs.

She said DHBs had made a formal offer to the union and the only outstanding offer was the DHBs' refusal to pay for doctors' days off under proposed rostered changes.

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