Ju­nior doc­tors de­nied choice of NSW union

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Health - Imre Salusin­szky

PA­TIENTS could be dy­ing in NSW hos­pi­tals be­cause of the state’s rigid in­dus­trial sys­tem, ac­cord­ing to ju­nior doc­tors who say their voices are not be­ing heard on is­sues such as fa­tigue and un­der-staffing.

Reg­is­tered med­i­cal of­fi­cers in NSW hos­pi­tals, along with salaried den­tists, were told in April they must re­main with the Health Ser­vices Union, rather than switch to the Aus­tralian Salaried Med­i­cal Of­fi­cers’ Fed­er­a­tion, which rep­re­sents them in the other states but is only al­lowed to cover se­nior doc­tors in NSW.

The HSU rep­re­sents hospi­tal clean­ers and cater­ers, along with paramedics and al­lied health pro­fes­sion­als.

Ju­nior doc­tors, who have been re­luc­tant to join the HSU, now say a cli­mate of fear, ex­ac­er­bated by their in­dus­trial un­der­rep­re­sen­ta­tion, is pre­vent­ing them from speak­ing out on pa­tient safety is­sues.

And they claim the HSU is pun­ish­ing them for hav­ing tried to leave.

Nada Ha­mad, pres­i­dent of the NSW as­so­ci­a­tion of RMOs, said yes­ter­day, We de­cided to try and break free of the HSU be­cause we felt they were an in­ef­fec­tive union. We were aiming to get a union that would al­low us to have a stronger voice and pro­mote our con­cerns about pa­tient safety.’’

She said the dual role of ju­nior doc­tors in hos­pi­tals — as work­ers and trainees — made it dou­bly in­tim­i­dat­ing to speak out in­di­vid­u­ally.

Af­ter an ini­tial hear­ing be­fore the NSW In­dus­trial Re­la­tions Com­mis­sion, the dis­pute be­tween the HSU and the ASMOF was re­ferred to ar­bi­tra­tion by John Macbean, a re­tired judge from the fed­eral in­dus­trial court.

Macbean ruled against ASMOF ex­tend­ing its cov­er­age be­cause the HSU qual­i­fies — un­der NSW in­dus­trial laws de­signed to pre­vent de­mar­ca­tion dis­putes — as an ex­ist­ing union to which the rel­e­vant em­ploy­ees might con­ve­niently be­long’’.

The de­ci­sion came de­spite the fact only around a tenth of RMOs in NSW be­long to the HSU, com­pared to around half in the ASMOF in other states. While there are around 400 RMOs and 51 den­tists in the HSU, 1260 RMOs and 92 den­tists told Mr Macbean they would join ASMOF.

How­ever, Macbean dis­missed their pref­er­ence as not of sig­nif­i­cant weight’’.

Whether or not ASMOF (NSW) is bet­ter able to ad­vance the in­dus­trial in­ter­ests of RMOs and den­tists is not the is­sue,’’ he said.

The is­sue is whether the HSU is the union to which RMOs and den­tists can con­ve­niently be­long.’’

Ha­mad claims there is now a per­cep­tion within the HSU that ju­nior doc­tors are an

ad­ver­sary’’, be­cause they tried to switch to ASMOF. I’ve tried to cre­ate meet­ings to im­prove the sit­u­a­tion but it’s dif­fi­cult to work with the HSU.’’

Natalie Brad­bury, from the HSU, said RMOs were bet­ter off out of the union that rep­re­sents their med­i­cal su­pe­ri­ors, and that the HSU now has a full-time of­fi­cer look­ing af­ter their in­ter­ests.

This ar­gu­ment has been heard and re­solved,’’ she said. ‘‘ We think it’s coun­ter­pro­duc­tive to con­tinue with th­ese dis­putes on de­mar­ca­tions.’’

She dis­missed a view among doc­tors that the HSU was a union for blue-col­lar work­ers as verg­ing on pro­fes­sional snob­bery’’.

NSW In­dus­trial Re­la­tions Min­is­ter John Della Bosca said the Gov­ern­ment be­lieves the cur­rent ar­range­ments have worked well and avoid po­ten­tial dis­rup­tion in a crit­i­cal area of ser­vice de­liv­ery’’.

He said the so-called con­ve­niently be­long’’ rule is com­mon in NSW (and fed­er­ally) to pre­vent the de­mar­ca­tion dis­putes that were com­mon 20 or 30 years ago.’’

A spokesman for ASMOF in NSW said the union had agreed to abide by the de­ci­sion of the in­de­pen­dent ar­bi­tra­tor, and would do so.

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