WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Nearly 5,000 New Zealand senior doctors and dentists will go on strike on Sept. 5 for the first time ever after pay negotiations failed, the union representing the medical staff said in a statement on Monday.
Sarah Dalton, chief executive of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, said in a statement it is seeking a wage increase for its members to match inflation and had voted to go on strike after pay negotiations had failed.
“Te Whatu Ora (New Zealand Health Authority) will not even pay senior doctors and dentists the bare minimum to ensure their staff do not take a real-terms pay cut for the third year in a row,” Dalton said.
The first strike is scheduled for two hours on September 5, with a second two hour strike on September 13 and a four-hour strike on September 21.
Te Whatu Ora Chief People Officer Andrew Slater said a fair pay offer was put on the table and they’re disappointed it hasn’t been accepted.
“Contingency planning is underway to ensure safe and appropriate care for patients in the event action does go ahead,” it said.
The strikes come less than two months out from what is expected to be a close-run government election on October 14.
Since Chris Hipkins became prime minister in January, the Labour government has said it will refocus on issues related to rising costs and helping New Zealanders manage.
A number of public sector workers including nurses and teachers have recently settled pay negotiations after government agencies increased their offers and the government has also boosted defence force staff salaries.
Hipkins said at his weekly press conference he didn’t want to see any medical professional out on strike and the government would work in good faith to solve the dispute.
(Reporting by Lucy Craymer; Editing by Michael Perry)
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