Junior doctors could put down their stethoscopes for strike actions again, warns a union which is struggling to confirm a deal with district health boards.
Resident Doctors' Association (RDA) national secretary Dr Deborah Powell told the Herald new strikes are likely in the new year.
The issue is centred around the multi-employer collective agreement between the RDA and DHBs which concludes on February 28.
At present the RDA agreement restricts the number of consecutive days doctors can work from the old restriction of 12 days back to 10.
However, a second union, Speciality Trainees of New Zealand (SToNZ) successfully argued junior doctors were missing out on training time because of the restriction.
To combat the RDA agreement, it struck a deal for its members to be able to work 12 consecutive days should they choose to.
Powell said the RDA is currently in tough negotiations with DHBs about a new multi-employer collective agreement to take over from February 28.
"Our collective employment agreement has expired, we are currently in bargaining and our collective will cease to exist on the 28th of February next year," she said.
"At that point the only collective in existence ... if we haven't successfully completed negotiations will be the SToNZ contract.
"Inevitably the district health boards will start offering its [the SToNZ] collective to all resident medical officers [RMOs] and most won't be given a choice."
The union is entering further bargaining this week, talking about the potential of a new multi-employer collective agreement between DHBs and the RDA.
Powell told the Herald she thought DHBs were putting on a strong front in negotiations, retaliating against the previous disputes in 2016 and 2017.
If negotiations failed and the SToNZ contract was offered after their agreement's conclusion, Powell believes further strike action would be taken.
"The worry is that come February or March that DHBs will offer the SToNZ contract and no other," Powell said.
"If we don't get this settled and if the SToNZ contract is the one offered, it's almost inevitable strikes will take place.
"It's a really, really serious issue and we are worried about it."