Wellington GPs plan rolling strikes in the lead-up to Christmas over exclusion of dentists from collective agreement
Doctors at five Wellington practices plan to walk off the job in support of their dental colleagues – believed to be the first time a strike has taken place in a GP practice.
Twenty-one GPs employed by Te Rūnanga O Toa Rangatira (Ora Toa Primary Health) practices across Porirua and in Newtown in Wellington have overwhelmingly voted for a series of rolling stoppages, says Lloyd Woods, Senior Industrial Officer at the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS).
These include five one-hour stoppages from 9am on 7, 10, 13, 18 and 19 December, followed by a full day strike on 24 December by 21 GPs.
“This was obviously a difficult decision for these doctors to make so it reflects the strength of feeling in those practices,” says Mr Woods.
“They’re very mindful of their patients so have planned the strikes to minimise disruption for patients. We believe it is the first time in New Zealand that salaried GPs in a practice have taken industrial action, and the GPs involved in this dispute regret that they’ve been put in this position. It’s a ‘first’ that no one wants.”
He says Ora Toa is refusing to allow the GPs’ two dental colleagues to join the collective agreement negotiated by ASMS. “Ora Toa’s refusal is inexplicable and unfair. The collective agreement provides important protections for GPs and of course their dental colleagues should be equally protected. It’s worth noting that dentists are covered by other collective agreements negotiated by ASMS, including the main agreement covering senior doctors and dentists in the country’s 20 DHBs.”
Ora Toa established the dental service in the Porirua suburb of Cannons Creek in 2008. It was one of five Maori health providers to receive Ministry of Health support after presenting a business case. Almost all of the GPs employed by Ora Toa are members of ASMS, as are the two dentists.
“These practices provide essential dental treatment for their local communities, which include some of the most disadvantaged people in the country,” says Mr Woods.
“They have rightly received accolades for this work, including from ASMS. It makes it even more baffling that they are refusing to recognise their dentists as part of the medical team providing holistic care for the practices’ patients.
“Our members are disappointed that practices that pride themselves on equitable treatment are not taking the same approach with two key members of their staff.”