National 4 January 2017
Dear Member,

Welcome to the 1st issue for 2017 of ASMS Direct, our national electronic publication.

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ASMS advice in respect of the next RMO strike

This is not the way I anticipated greeting members at the start of 2017.  But we are at where we are at.

It has now been confirmed that there will be a further (second) national strike by resident medical officers, this time for 72 hours commencing at 7am from Tuesday 17 January through to 7am Friday 20 January.  I am not commenting on the specifics of this industrial dispute aside from noting that the Resident Doctors’ Association’s membership has reportedly increased and there is a likelihood that more RMOs will be on strike than during the first strike in October, and that while the focus of the RDA and DHBs will most immediately be on the life preserving services agreements the hard yards were presumably done last time. 

In this situation the ASMS and DHBs would then quickly meet in order to reach agreements over appropriate rates of pay for those SMOs who undertake additional duties as a result of the strike.  This was the case in previous strikes up until and including the last strike (before last October) in 2008.  However, in the lead up to the October strike, the DHBs national representatives adopted stalling tactics with the effect of ‘stealing a march’ on ASMS in order to announced their unilaterally declared position.

Given the time of year, with the holiday break, it would be difficult for ASMS and the DHBs to meet to make progress on these issues but that might still be possible after 4 January.

The DHBs’ position in the lead-up to the first RMO strike has forced ASMS to be proactive in providing advice in advance of any agreement being reached with the DHBs.  ASMS is receptive to negotiations with DHBs, preferably nationally, or alternatively with individual DHBs.  We are aware that a number of chief executives are uncomfortable with their position last time but whether they are a minority or not remains to be seen.

However, in the absence of an agreement with ASMS either nationally or with your DHB, our advice is set out below.  The only change that might occur in the event an agreement is reached would be the payment rates (which we are flexible over), and of course we would advise you as soon as any agreement was reached.

There are two groups of SMOs who may qualify for additional payments:

  • Those who work longer hours than usual on a day of the strike, or who change their duties or shift and work different hours on a day of the strike, or who are called in and effectively work on a strike day that would otherwise have been a day off.
  • Those who work their normal day or shift but without the assistance of their normal level and/or quality of RMO support and as a consequence find themselves having to work harder and faster or postpone work they would otherwise do and “fit it in” on another day after the strike is over or in their own time.

Noting the above, the following specific points should be considered:

  1. It is reasonable for SMOs to claim the rates agreed with all DHBs in 2008 plus a CPI adjustment when they are called upon, or find themselves working additional hours or duties or having to bear a greater burden on a day during the next RMO strike (see below).
  2. As before the first RMO strike, ASMS remains willing to discuss the level of the inflation adjuster and is open to proposals from DHBs nationally or individually.
  3. But we do not accept it is reasonable to expect SMOs to “hold the fort” for less than was agreed by DHBs eight years ago.
  4. The challenge for ASMS and SMOs now is that the bad faith tactics of DHBs in the lead up to the first strike appear to have had the desired effect: some members claimed nothing; others the lower DHB rates; others the 2008 rates, while some claimed the ASMS recommended rates.
  5. The only way to be certain you will receive the ASMS recommended rates during the next strike is to obtain agreement (preferably in writing or email) with management before you agree to work additional hours or duties.

If you have any concerns or questions about this advice, please call or email one of the Association’s industrial officers.  If you are not sure who your industrial officer is or how to contact him or her, please email us at or ring 04 499-1271.

ASMS Recommended Rates

A If you are working your standard hours for the day but without the usual level of RMO support, provided this results in a demonstrably more onerous working conditions, for each hour so worked: $340 / hour
B Whether or not you have RMO support: If you work longer or additional hours on what would otherwise be a normal day, or you change your hours and work a different shift or duty e.g. an evening or overnight duty, or you work on what would otherwise be your day off $568 / hour
C For being called back, including travelling time, when you would not otherwise have been on call – with a minimum payment of 3 hours $568 / hour
D If you are doing your normal rostered call but in the absence of a 1st on call RMO, for each hour worked i.e. called back (including telephone calls) $284 / hour
E The rates in C & D may not be claimed simultaneously i.e. for the same period  


In the lead-up to the first strike in October it seemed that both the DHBs and RDA approached the life preserving services responsibly, notwithstanding some hiccups, which enabled a relatively smooth pathway.  This was greatly assisted by the DHBs being represented in this process by people who were not involved in the actual negotiations thereby reducing the risk of conflict.

When the RDA then formally advised of a second strike (subsequently cancelled due to the earthquakes), the DHBs approach changed.  On this occasion a legal firm was engaged in part to represent them in the life preserving services agreement process.  The new approach was more adversarial with tensions increasing.  Had it not been for the cancellation of the strike in November it is likely that conflict would have broken out.

It is critical that despite the obvious linkage the approach towards negotiations is does not carry over to life preserving services.  The former is about bargaining and can involve legal issues; the latter is not and is best handled by people with professional and clinical expertise, not legal.  ASMS hopes the DHBs do not gone down their November path again.  It will not help things and may escalate the dispute because of the increased mistrust that inevitably would occur.

Kind regards

Ian Powell
Executive Director