The vexatious issue of passing on raised its head again in 2012 and early 2013 with the 3 Auckland DHBs, Canterbury and most recently Waikato passing on the terms and conditions NZRDA secured for members, to nonmembers.
So what is “passing on”? This refers to employers who “pass on” terms and conditions negotiated by a union, to nonunion employees, without any negotiation having occurred. In explanation, nonunion staff are employed on individual employment agreements (IEAs), the negotiation of which is between that employee and their employer. They have the same right to negotiate and the same process applies as for collective bargaining in that one party (usually the employee) initiates bargaining, which is “normally” followed by tabling of claims, negotiation, genuine consideration of the party’s positions, responses and counterclaims etc, until a settlement is reached.
In Auckland, Canterbury and Waikato, the DHBs simply offered the same terms and conditions as NZRDA had negotiated; without any expectation having been expressed by the employee, and without any negotiation. Indeed had someone sought to negotiate something different, we suspect the employer would have turned them down!
When we say the “same” terms and conditions, in the case of Canterbury and Waikato, this included backdating the 2% pay rise members have enjoyed since September 2012 as a lump sum (although this was “variable passing on” as the money was averaged, so those on higher salaries got less and those on lower salaries got more!).
In their defense, the employer’s state that passing on is:
1. in the interests of fairness referring to “…policy requires pay to be fair and equitable”; and
2. Not a union issue as IEAs apply to nonunion members, and
3. to assist with administrative pressures; specifically that IEAs make it administratively difficult for managers and payroll.
On the Union front, passing on is seen as undermining; a deliberate action by the employer to encourage non-union membership on the basis that “they get the same anyway so why pay union fees”. Passing on by the employer is a significant irritant to union members who personally see their employer’s actions as an attempt to tip the balance of power that collective activity seeks to achieve i.e. it is seen as an attack on them.
In reply to the “fair and equitable” position, union members believe passing on is anything but “fair and equitable”. They pay, morally and financially for the negotiation of terms and conditions. Non-union members have a choice; they can participate if they wish and are specifically notified within 10 days of bargaining being initiated to allow this to occur. Furthermore, on settlement of the collective, the opportunity to join the union is also often provided, giving the non-union members another chance. Their choice is influenced by the employer’s intention (track record) to pass on regardless. In this scenario it is the union members, and we note the majority of the employees, who feel they have been treated unfairly.
The Bargaining Fee arrangement could assist with this area of conflict as non-union members who wish to enjoy the benefits negotiated by the union, can pay a fee for the privilege. At least under this regime the “they get it for free” issue and that the benefit is union negotiated, is acknowledged. However more recently DHBs have been resisting the inclusion of bargaining fees, articulated as being largely on the basis of administrative hassle. This occurs even where the union offers to manage the process (in conjunction with the employer providing oversight). Where the employer declines a bargaining fee and then proceeds to passing on, the arguments around undermining as the primary intention are amplified.
As for equity, the employer’s commitment to this concept is somewhat “convenient” and dare we say transient. Providing improved terms and conditions to individual’s riding above the collective agreement is not uncommon when it suits! Having said that individuals are entitled to negotiate their own IEAs; it is the employer’s regime of passing on that minimizes this option.
On the issue of “what employers do with IEAs being none of the union’s business”, a number of points:
1. The initiation of IEA negotiation let alone passing on of specifically union negotiated terms and conditions, comes rarely from the IEA non-union member but is instigated by the DHBs.
2. The terms and conditions being offered are those negotiated by the union. Little if any room for genuine individual negotiation exists or is sought by the employer.
3. Passing on of union member’s negotiated terms and conditions to the minority has a negative impact for the majority of (union) employees.
If the employers were in the process of de novo negotiating individually with non-union members and not from the basis of offering up front union negotiated terms and conditions, then the “union interest” in such would be limited. However in light of what actually happens, employer initiation and use of union negotiated terms and conditions / impact on unions, unions we argue do have a legitimate interest.
On the administrative issues surrounding payroll, we have some sympathy, if only because making life easier for payroll makes life better for us all!! On terms of employment such as different break provisions for instance we can appreciate there may be some rostering issues. However we do not believe that with computer systems set up as they are today, the tracking of IEAs as far as salaries is concerned is that difficult.
When it comes to the additional process of paying a lump sum payment however, the administrative argument falls apart, imposing as it does more administrative work.
Finally whilst not mentioned above, there is the cost issue. $420K for ADHB alone in an environment where we are constantly petitioned to do more with less and save;save;save. The employer’s credibility, or perhaps more kindly put focus, has to be questioned at such times.
This matter has been raised with the employers and is the subject of ongoing discussion. It is also the subject of pending legal action, which we shall report on in future newsletters.
AGM and Nat Exec for 2013/2014
The Annual General Meeting of the Association was held in Auckland on March 23, at which the following were confirmed as our national executive for 2013/2014. For the first time this year we have a community member recognizing the increasing diversity of our membership including those in General Practice, public health, sexual health and palliative care.
|National President||Curtis Walker|
|Vice President||Chris Jones|
|Executive Secretary||Abby Jebb|
|National Secretary||Deborah Powell|
|Waikato (joint)||Pieter Woods|
|Wellington (joint)||Lorraine Davison|
|Canterbury||Gaylene Le Bas|
|Otago / Southland||Julia Taylor|
The AGM also voted to allow TI’s free associate membership of NZRDA. An associate member is entitled to information and other benefits of membership, but not to vote in the Association’s processes.For a brief bio on each member, have a look at our website (www.nzrda.org.nz) under “about us”.
We also welcomed Phillip Chao, President of NZMSA to our meeting and had valuable conversations around improved engagement with our future members (current medical students), the adequacy of 1st year positions for the increasing numbers of NZ medical graduates, ACE and the “Road Show” amongst other issues of mutual interest to both organisations.
MCNZ Prevocational Training Proposal
The MCNZ road show is almost at an end and NZRDA is now preparing to formally respond to their latest paper on prevocational training. Any member who has a view, please let us know. We are quite happy to receive bullet points if that is all you have time for; email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We would also encourage you to submit your own opinions direct to MCNZ; the more input they get the better! Submissions are due 9 May, so don’t leave it too late.
NZRDA will also be attending a key stakeholder meeting on 19 June as part of MCNZ’s process.
Surveyed to Death?
We do seem to be in survey season, and not just DHB’s staff satisfaction surveys. NZRDA has been recently approached by a number of sources, keen to survey RMOs about all manner of things from your attitude to death, the hours you work and bullying.
We are aware of the “surveyed out” phenomena and try to ensure only valuable stuff is entertained, however there is also the issue of what the information is being used for and where it will inevitably end up. A poorly constructed survey can give entirely inaccurate representation of what is happening – and then there is the issue of statistics and more damn statistics.
When NZRDA is approached we take a role in “vetting” what is being asked, is it relevant / been asked before, what purpose the information is to put to etc. If we are not satisfied, we simply decline to assist in the survey.
We have been asked by members recently if they “have” to participate in surveys, especially those sent through their employers email/monkey survey systems. The answer is NO. Your time is precious, so is your information, so if confronted with a questionable survey (we trust not condoned by NZRDA!), the best advice we can give is, don’t participate.
Any problems simply let us know.
Stop work meetings
NZRDA is holding a series of stop work meetings across NZ during April, May and June. Northland, Wairarapa, Hutt and Capital and Coast have already met with dates and times arranged for most of the rest of NZ in the upcoming 6 weeks. The meetings are to discuss upcoming negotiations, with renewal of our MECA set for August 2013, so bring you concerns, queries and ideas along to share. We are also taking the opportunity to update on the ongoing issues affecting BPAC and GPEP.
Timetable is on the website, or watch out for local notification by email.
RMOs Lose a Great Advocate and Friend – Farewell to Anna
It is with great sadness that we mourn the passing of Anna Paton after a battle with cancer.
A lawyer by trade, Anna joined NZRDA as a legal advisor in 2004, and through her advocacy, skill and passion for the role she became one of NZRDA’s senior team and a valued friend and colleague to all those she worked with.
Many RMOs over the years were grateful to Anna for her dedication to their causes – whether it was through a one-on-one stoush with a truculent DHB, an indemnity case, or representing broader causes such as our MECA negotiations or meals court cases. She was an ever present right-hand woman to Deborah over the years, and her attention to detail and simultaneous ability to grasp the bigger picture are valuable assets that we shall miss terribly.
On a personal note, I always loved her sense of humour and ability to laugh in the face of the most frustrating of circumstances. For this fortitude and levity, she was rewarded with ever increased responsibility at national bargaining for NZRDA and other unions in the CNS stable. I always knew we could count on Anna for a succinct and expert opinion of our MECA, and also as a wise head for advice on almost any matter relevant to RMOs and medicine.
It therefore came as devastating news earlier this year that she was unwell. Despite this, Anna continued to work doing the job she loved and was so good at right up until she was unable to do so. Her loss is especially keenly felt in the RDA office as two of her sisters, Sam and Melissa, also work in our office. Our thoughts and aroha go to them and to Anna’s husband and two daughters. We have lost a great friend and colleague, they have lost a beloved sister, wife and mum.
We say to you Anna, who gave so much to so many, moe mai ra. Kia rangimarie to haerenga ki te po.
Dr Curtis Walker