Emails cloud DHB-doctors dispute

By John Maslin

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Julie Patterson
Julie Patterson

Whanganui District Board's chief executive officer has defended her decision to send an email to all the staff outlining some aspects of the on-going national industrial action between the board and resident doctors.

Julie Patterson sent the email on Wednesday afternoon and in it said she was doing so to counter "misinformation" coming from the Resident Doctors' Association. She included details of the offer the country's 20 DHBs, including Whanganui, had made.

In her email Mrs Patterson said she would not normally comment to staff on industrial negotiations, "especially when a union has exercised its right to take industrial action".

"However, with regret, due to the misinformation that is being provided in regards to the negotiations with the Resident Doctors' Association (RDA) on the MECA (multi employer collective agreement) for registered medical officers (RMO), I have decided to make the actual offer available to all staff.

"As the union has stated publicly that it has already made these documents available to its members directly, my decision is not breaching any rules around communicating with staff during bargaining," she said.

However, one DHB employee who contacted the Chronicle but who did not want to be identified, said some staff felt Mrs Patterson's email was tantamount to bullying and "flew in the face of what we'd consider to be good faith bargaining".

The CEO's statement prompted an emailed response from a junior doctor at Whanganui Hospital, who said it was not the junior doctors' intention to involve other staff groups in its dispute with the DHBs.

"However, considering Mrs Patterson has taken the effort to contact you, I feel that our voice must also be heard.

"I would like to think that the negotiations between our junior doctor union and the DHBs could more professionally take place in either the negotiation rooms or in the media, rather than in the private space of your work email accounts," the doctor said.

He said the negotiations were "very complex" and going on strike while knowingly disturbing patient car "is the last thing we want to be doing".

"We care about our patients and it is with much hesitation that we are taking this action after four years of negotiating around safer working conditions. We want you to know that there is more to the argument than the information Mrs Patterson is providing yourselves and the media, and that it is safety, not money, that we are most concerned about in these negotiations."

Mrs Patterson told the Chronicle that the junior doctor's email to staff was in fact written by the union and sent to other DHBs.

Meanwhile yesterday the DHBs made an application to the Employment Court for an urgent injunction to stop resident doctors from striking on November 23-24 in support of safer rosters.

Dr Deborah Powell, national secretary of the NZRDA, said the DHBs' decision was "unfortunate".

"If successful, our strike will simply be delayed, not stopped, and is likely to push industrial action into the busy Christmas and New Year period," Dr Powell said.

"It would be nice to think the upcoming strike could be avoided, not by legal action, but by settlement of the contract. All we need is for the DHBs to return to the bargaining table to negotiate a fair deal."

- Wanganui Chronicle

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