Despite policy restrictions, the Alliance is working to create a safe and fair working environment for doctors-in-training.
For those of us currently in unaccredited land, signing a new employment contract is an annual rite of passage for doctors-in-training in NSW. We see this as a formality that has to be carried out to continue our training, to make sure we have job security for another year. Few of us go through the contract line by line to read what we’re signing and what terms of employment we’re agreeing to.
For the vast majority, we’re agreeing to the terms outlined in the Public Hospital (Medical Officers) Award, aka the JMO Award.
This document outlines our working conditions, how much we get paid, overtime and on call requirements, and leave allowances (including study leave). Unfortunately, it’s also an outdated document, one that hasn’t had major updates for around 30 years. It reflects employment practices of a past generation – not what we expect from a modern Award fit for 2019.
ASMOF (NSW) obtained industrial coverage of DITs in 2012 and through the AMA (NSW)/ASMOF (NSW) Alliance, started gathering information on what members saw as urgent changes that needed to be made to make the JMO Award fit for purpose. During this time, the NSW Government introduced a new wages policy which has severely restricted our ability modernise the JMO Award.
The changes in policy and regulation prohibit a public-sector organisation, such as the Ministry of Health, from changing conditions of employment which will increase salary-related costs by more than 2.5% without equivalent cost offsets.
This is a major barrier when you’ve got an Award that fails to create a safe and fair working environment for DITs. It’s hard to trade-off employment benefits when you’re coming off such a low base.
Adding to that, the independent arbiter – the Industrial Relations Commission of NSW – has its hands tied and is not allowed to change Awards or make orders which are inconsistent with this policy.
Though we have some major obstacles, the Alliance isn’t giving up on getting the changes that DITs need to prosper in the workplace. We’ve identified these priority issues:
The industrial arena isn’t the only avenue open to us and we’ve used advocacy tools such as the Hospital Health Check to start making gains on issues such as safe working hours and unrostered overtime. As a result of our advocacy, the Ministry of Health has recognised the need to make structural and cultural changes to create a safe working environment. We’ll continue working with the Ministry in good faith to achieve these goals. While it’s a start, we know we’re still some way off achieving our ultimate goal and getting our Award up to a level that’s comparable with other states in Australia.
The Doctors-in-Training Committee is committed to using local advocacy, political advocacy, the media and the industrial arena in tandem to come up with innovative ways to secure the changes we need in a time of a heavy-handed industrial relations framework. To carry on this momentum, we need to hear from all members on what other changes are needed or what local solutions may work on a state-wide level. Always feel free to get in touch with us via firstname.lastname@example.org, or come to the next Doctors-in-Training Committee meeting.
Contributed by Dr Sanjay Hettige,
Co-Chair, AMA/ASMOF alliance Doctors-in-Training