Full-day Christmas Eve strike for Wellington GPs over dentist dispute

Doctors at five Wellington practices will walk off the job again on Monday after failed attempts to get dentists on the same collective employment agreement.

Twenty-one Wellington GPs employed by Te Rūnanga O Toa Rangatira began a series of strikes earlier this month. They want dentists included in their agreement, but the iwi health provider that employs them says no.

Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) spokesperson Lloyd Woods says the current arrangement is unfair. But public health organisation (PHO) Ora Toa says the agreement isn't tailored for dentists, so it would be inappropriate to include them.

Over this month, five one-hour strikes have been held at five practices in Porirua and Newtown, before the full-day strike that's scheduled for Monday.

Ian Powell of ASMS says doctors are showing full support of the strikes, telling Newshub on Monday they want their dentist colleagues to be respected.

"Christmas is a time for good will and not bad will to dentists and doctors who are doing their best for their patients in a difficult environment."

Signed by the 21 GPs taking the action, a letter to the Ora Toa PHO Board in November urged them to recognise the dentists' skills and their part in the wider medical team.

"The doctors and dentists work with the same patients, and often seek advice from one another on clinical matters," said Mr Woods.

"They are very much a team, and while including the dentists in the agreement will not incur a significant cost, it will greatly improve morale."

Ora Toa PHO responded to the letter saying that it was an operational issue for management, he said.

"But Ora Toa management have chosen not to engage constructively with the union over the issue of the exclusion of the dentists."

He said the strikes could have been avoided if dentists were allowed to join the collective agreement, which makes sense since they all work together and have "similar" levels of qualifications.

A spokesperson for the Ora Toa PHO Board said earlier this month they're still committed to reaching an agreement.

But ASMS said further industrial action is "almost certain" if the employer refuses to budge.


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