Further strikes across health sector possible

  A doctor during a surgery (AAP)
A doctor during a surgery (AAP)

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman isn't ruling out further strike action from thousands of workers across the health sector, including senior doctors and ambulance drivers.

It comes as 3000 junior doctors walked off the job yesterday.

More than 1000 ambulance officers and 4000 senior doctors could turn to strike action over the coming months if pay negotiations don't go their way.

Dr Coleman admitted there is discontent.

"We've got the nurses settlement next year, we're about to get into the senior doctors settlement, but there's always noise around these industrial settlements."

But he says that's not unusual in the health sector.

"We have these complex negotiations each year. There's many of them each year and it's got to be worked through."

The union representing senior doctors has been in negotiations for the past few months to renew its collective contract.

Association of Salaried Medical Specialists executive director Ian Powell Senior says they've received a poor offer for settlement from district health boards. He says the offer will be presented at the annual conference next month to its 4000 members, and strike action might be considered.

"It's clear the DHBs have distaste for collective negotiations and prefer to decree things, which increases the risk of escalation."

Dr Coleman is hopeful of a resolution.

"I'm very keen to see relationships between DHBs and senior doctors preserved, and there's a long way to go on all these discussions, and let's just see what happens."

The union representing ambulance drivers issued a 14-day notice of industrial action earlier this week, saying St John is trying to squeeze more out of already stretched frontline staff.

Labour health spokeswoman Annette King says the health sector is underfunded and it's contributing to worker discontent.

"We will see more strikes and more industrial action and you can't blame them," she says.

"Dr Coleman says they do a great job but he's got to put his money where his mouth is."