He’s not help­ing

The Compass - - OPINION -

It’s the old ploy of try­ing to sway pub­lic opin­ion to the mind­set the an­tag­o­nists are just a bunch of ‘child­ish’ whin­ers who don’t de­serve nearly what they are ask­ing for.

The strat­egy usu­ally works well when­ever pub­lic ser­vants take to the picket lines.

‘ Joe Blow’, who’s work­ing min­i­mum wage, has no pity for the bloke with no bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion than him who’s pulling down a union salary, with ben­e­fits, from the pro­vin­cial cof­fers.

We’ve seen it with just about ev­ery dis­pute be­tween the Wil­liams’ gov­ern­ment and its em­ploy­ees – the nurses the most re­cent in the line of fire – and now, it ap­pears, we are be­ing ex­posed to it once again.

The prov­ince’s doc­tors want a raise – $80 mil­lion over four years to grant a 13 per cent in­crease to salar­ied prac­ti­tion­ers and a 27 per cent in­crease for spe­cial­ists. But the raise would not ap­ply to on­col­o­gists and pathol­o­gists who were in­cluded in a spe­cial in­crease ap­proved in 2008.

The New­found­land and Labrador Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion (NLMA), noted its mem­bers cur­rently earn about 88 per cent of the salaries earned by their coun­ter­parts in At­lantic Canada.

The in­crease would not put them at the top of the scale, but some­where in the mid­dle.

Premier Wil­liams’ take on the re­quest, when he was asked by re­porters to com­ment, was “ Through the roof. Too high. Can’t be dealt with. Can’t be an­swered. Can’t be sat­is­fied.”

Gov­ern­ment walked away from the bar­gain­ing ses­sion.

The NLMA asked for the mat­ter to go to bind­ing ar­bi­tra­tion.

Mr. Wil­liams and the gang re­fused. To their odd way of think­ing, they are still ne­go­ti­at­ing, de­spite the fact they have left the ta­ble.

Aside from the con­flict cre­ated through words and deeds, Mr. Wil­liams’ han­dling of this mat­ter is to­tally de­void of logic or fore­thought.

With re­spect to his favourite ‘di­vide and con­quer’ strat­egy, Mr. Wil­liams needs to un­der­stand a sim­ple fact: civil ser­vants with no higher ed­u­ca­tion than their nonunion­ized coun­ter­parts are easy tar­gets. They get no sym­pa­thy from lower-paid – but just as qual­i­fied – cit­i­zens. Doc­tors are a dif­fer­ent mat­ter. They have sev­eral years of in­tense study to their credit. They deal with life-and­death mat­ters ev­ery day and are ex­pected to keep on top of the lat­est med­i­cal treat­ments and trends.

They have the re­spon­si­bil­ity of pro­vid­ing the best ad­vice to en­sure the health of each in­di­vid­ual who comes to them for guid­ance and treat­ment.

And there are not a lot of peo­ple who have cho­sen this line of work or the im­mense re­spon­si­bil­ity that comes with it.

Sto­ries of long waits for spe­cial­ists’ ser­vices are com­mon in this prov­ince. Sto­ries of long waits to get to see a fam­ily doc­tor – if you’re for­tu­nate to have a fam­ily doc­tor – are more com­mon.

With a world­wide short­age of physi­cians, and ev­ery city, town and ru­ral back­wa­ter cry­ing out for their ser­vices, we (as in the gov­ern­ment that rep­re­sents us) just can’t af­ford to tick off too many of them.

So tak­ing a non-ne­go­tiable stance with the as­so­ci­a­tion that rep­re­sents pretty well all doc­tors prac­tic­ing in this prov­ince, is stupid.

In his at­tempt at sub­ver­sion, Premier Wil­liams seems to lack the com­mon sense to con­sider how his lat­est ac­tions can af­fect the lives of cit­i­zens. Doc­tors can leave. Or they can choose not to come here in the first place!

Iron­i­cally, just a few days af­ter Mr. Wil­liams had taken his tough stance with the doc­tors, a group was meet­ing in Clarenville to fig­ure out how to get more fam­ily physi­cians to set up prac­tice here. This area needs 5-6 new doc­tors, ac­cord­ing to a re­cruiter for East­ern Health.

Mr. Wil­liams’ hard-line stance with the NLMA won’t help them.

So here’s some friendly ad­vice for Mr. Wil­liams, on be­half of doc­tors and, more im­por­tantly, the peo­ple who need them: ‘shut up, get back to the ta­ble, and be nice’.

And if you’re not pre­pared or able to do that, let the ar­bi­tra­tor de­cide.

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