He’s not helping
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.