Doctors' pay dispute may be over

The union representing senior doctors appears to have reached an agreement with District Health Boards (DHB) over a collective agreement following the intervention of Health Minister.

Long-term negotiations over the national DHB collective agreement have reached a provisional settlement.

The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) executive director Ian Powell said ballots would be posted out to its members over the next four weeks and the national executive recommended accepting the offer.

Mr Powell would not reveal details of the agreement until all members received their ballots.

He said an "all-night" meeting of ASMS, DHB and Ministry of Health representatives on March 5 was facilitated by Minister of Health David Cunliffe.

"There has been much further work undertaken in order to further progress issues, including over the Easter break."

The national executive met today to deliberate on progress , including a session with Mr Cunliffe and a senior adviser.

Mr Cunliffe took leave from part of a scheduled cabinet meeting for the session.

"The provisional settlement represents the best we have been able to scratch out of a very difficult and protracted negotiating process. While the National Executive has some misgivings with it, the provisional settlement includes some beneficial gains and a springboard for the future in terms of recruitment and retention in an internationally competitive medical labour market."

The proposed deal coms at the end of 20 months of drawn-out negotiations that included a strike ballot which would have seen up to 2800 senior doctors walk off the job next month.

The two parties have long argued about how much the specialists are paid, with the DHBs saying a "typical senior doctor" earns close to $200,000 a year and the union saying the true figure is more like $150,000.

Although the talks started off being about pay, they became more about recruitment and retention as time wore on, with ASMS saying the medical workforce was in crisis and better pay would help stem the flow of specialists offshore.

- NZPA


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