Union vs union

A fascinating open letter from the NZ Resident Doctors Association to the PSA:

NZRDA letter to Union Colleagues concerning CTU/PSA support for SToNZ (AKA Scab Union).

17 September 2018

Dear Union Colleagues

Whilst do have differences of opinion on some things, there are some core principles we always felt we held in common. Recent events however might be testing those core principles; we refer to the establishment of SToNZ (Speciality Trainees of New Zealand) and support for them from the PSA.

Whilst NZRDA was aware of the existence of about 50 surgical registrars who objected to safer rosters and worked during our 2016/2017 strike as a result, we are disappointed to see that another Union was prepared to assist this group in setting up a union and bargaining an alternative collective agreement, solely designed to diminish safe staffing rules. The issue in contention is what we know as Schedule 10, a provision gained as a result of strike action of our members successfully preventing doctors from working 12 days in a row, requiring instead a maximum of 10 days worked.

SToNZ appears to have a single purpose (the negotiation of a collective agreement without the safer hours provision) and more recently have stated that they expect a 6% increase in pay due to the fact they will be working 51/2% longer hours. Another concern is their statement that:

“DHB’s have been approached. They are very receptive to having a second negotiating partner – Are willing to make concessions to give impetus to our union and get it off the ground.” And finish by saying “A contract with the DHB’s is being prepared”.

NZRDA is also in bargaining at this time and it is already apparent that the DHBs feel emboldened to undermine us due to the recent material support of this new union. At the last bargaining session, the DHBs tabled an extensive log of clawbacks designed to diminish the role of NZRDA in decision making about runs and rosters. In essence they have chosen to attack the very core of this long-established and complex MECA.

So, in effect, the PSA is supporting;
1. a group of employees who are seeking to undermine safer workplace provisions affecting not just the doctors themselves but inevitably members of the public, and
2. a group of workers who have publicly confirmed they worked during strike action, and
3. a process that will inevitably undermine a legitimate union and collective bargaining by that union.

We agree with the CTU position that unions must be genuinely independent of the employer. It is difficult to reconcile that position with the PSA supporting SToNZ. We are further concerned to learn that the new union will be seeking to affiliate to the CTU with its blessing. We also acknowledge the existence of competition between the PSA and APEX amongst other unions, but do not believe this should be confused with the PSA Executive taking action to undermine the NZRDA and our previous bargaining successes. The new union has as its sole purpose the undermining of safer hours won by NZRDA members through strike action.

The next few weeks will be telling, not just for NZRDA, its members, and our bargaining, but I believe the union movement as well. Whether their original intention or not, the PSA Executive is supporting a union that undermines collective activity.

We appreciate the support so many union members from across the spectrum of the movement have shown and thank you for that. We are aware PSA members have also written to their executive expressing their concerns. (see link below.)


We believe for all the reasons above that the PSA and the CTU must withdraw their support for SToNZ and we seek your support for this stance.

If you wish to have any further information on the issues at the heart of this matter, we are happy to provide what information we have.

Kind regards

Dr Deborah Powell
National Secretary

The NZRDA is a very militant union and it is not surprising that some doctors moved to set up their own union.
As I understand it, some doctors don’t like the NZRDA insistence they can only work a maximum of 10 days in a row as that means they end up never working the same days.
The STONZ agreement allows a doctor to work for 12 days, which basically just means they work through a weekend but not the next weekend. This means they don’t suddenly have to take days off mid week, which they may not want.
So I think it is a good thing if doctors have a choice of unions and a choice of collective contracts.
But NZRDA obviously don’t agree and are basically calling the PSA scab supporters.

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