National 16 August 2017
Dear Member,

Welcome to the 8th issue for 2017 of ASMS Direct, our national electronic publication.

You can also keep in touch with the latest news and views on health issues relevant to public hospital specialists via our website, which contains links (at the top of the home page) to our Facebook and LinkedIn pages, as well as our quarterly magazine The Specialist. We’re also on Twitter at

Result of the ASMS-DHB MECA ballot

I am pleased to advise that members have overwhelmingly voted in favour of ratifying the proposed ASMS-DHB MECA, as recommended by your National Executive. managed the ballot for ASMS, and voting by DHB-employed members closed at noon on Friday 11 August. Members were asked: ‘Do you support the National Executive’s recommendation to settle the MECA?’ A total of 2009 members (representing 91.74% of the vote) voted ‘yes’ and 181 members voted ‘no’, resulting in the ballot being carried. There were no informal or blank voting papers. Voter return was 51.34%, being 2190 votes received from 4265 eligible members.

The strongest support for ratification was our Whanganui members with a 100% vote for ratification. The strongest opposition was Taranaki with 77% in favour and 23% against.

You may be aware of the serious and genuine concerns raised by many emergency medicine members over the failure to achieve T2 (double time) for after-hours shifts. Here the vote was split. 189 out of 314 emergency medicine members voted with 93 (49%) supporting ratification and 96 (51%) against.

The National Executive has subsequently considered the results of the ballot and unanimously decided to ratify the recommended MECA settlement.

Getting to this point has been a long process and would not have been possible without the sustained efforts of your negotiating team. We will post a final copy of the MECA on the website in due course but in the meantime, you can view the Special MECA Bulletin which summarises the benefits of the new MECA and has previously been forwarded to you for the concluded ballot at

The next step will be the forthcoming ballot on the bargaining fee (discussed further below). ASMS will be providing hard copies of the new MECA as soon as practical along with an explanatory context.

Bargaining fee ballot

As part of the settlement, ASMS and the DHBs have agreed to a bargaining fee clause (as in previous MECAs). This clause means that all DHB employees whose work comes within the coverage clause of the MECA (ie, all senior medical and dental officers) will be balloted as to whether a bargaining fee will apply in their DHB.

The bargaining fee is a mechanism in the Employment Relations Act that allows current DHB SMOs who are not ASMS members to pay a fee to ASMS in order to have their terms and conditions set by the collective agreement ASMS has negotiated with the DHBs.

If most SMOs in each DHB who take part in the bargaining fee ballot vote in favour of having a bargaining fee, then all SMOs who are not ASMS members will either:

  • have to tell the DHB they do not wish to pay the bargaining fee and therefore that they do not want their terms and conditions to be set by the MECA
  • or do nothing, and the bargaining fee will automatically be deducted in four instalments from their next pay after 15 September 2017.

For further background information on the bargaining fee refer to the Q&A here.

DHBs will soon send out the ballot papers to all SMOs (some have already done so) and the ballot will close on 28 August 2017. This will include further information about how to vote and who the returning officer is. ASMS will be providing scrutineers, most likely one of your branch presidents or vice presidents.

Please do not think that this ballot does not affect you. The National Executive strongly recommends that you (a) vote and (b) vote in favour of the bargaining fee. Please consider the following:

  • Some non-members are happy to ride on the backs of those who pay the ASMS subscription which funds ASMS’s ability to negotiate the MECA while still receiving the benefits of the MECA. This is a source of resentment among many members. The bargaining fee enables many of these non-members to make a financial contribution towards what they gain from us.
  • Through this process ASMS discovers potential members, often newer colleagues, who we were not aware of (nor they of us) who subsequently usually join ASMS (or pay the bargaining fee).
  • Sometimes we discover SMOs who thought they had joined us by virtue of receiving some information about us from their DHB and did not realise that they were not members.

Finally, in case of any confusion, if the ballot result is in favour of the bargaining fee you as an ASMS member you don’t have to pay it precisely because you are a member. The only ones who pay the fee are those who don’t join ASMS (or opt out as discussed above). There has been some confusion over this in past ballots.

Please vote: the ballot in your DHB is either about to commence or already has commenced.

Kind regards

Ian Powell
Executive Director