Treasury agrees to talks, but not on collective agreement

Justice Melcer had urged both sides to reattempt dialog; Finance Ministry refuses to renegotiate the agreement signed with the IMA.

By JUDY SIEGEL
October 27, 2011 11:12
3 minute read.
Labor court discussion of medical residents

National Labor Court discussion of medical residents resigna. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

 
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Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer, sitting as the High Court of Justice, refused to overturn a decision by the National Labor Court, saying on Thursday that he would give the hospital residents from the center of the country two weeks to find a solution to their labor dispute with the Treasury.

The Treasury, the Israel Medical Association and the rebel hospital residents now go back to the drawing board and try to resolve their disagreements as the weapons of strikes and mass resignations have been eliminated, at least for now, by the courts.

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The Treasury on Thursday said it is willing to resume talks with the doctors, which began some two months ago but were halted when they got nowhere and young doctors studying a specialty tried to resign en masse. But the Finance Ministry said that while it is willing to talk, it would not agree to break open the NIS 2.6 billion labor agreement signed with the IMA at the end of August.

The IMA said that it too agreed to the continuation of talks after the High Court backed up the previous ruling by the National Labor Court not to allow mass resignations because they constituted illegitimate means to pressure the Treasury to make concessions.

Yet the IMA said it does not intend to forgo the achievements won in the nine-year accord it signed two months ago.

“The best chance for concluding the talks is to complete negotiations in the shortest possible time according to the same formula as the labor accord signed with the employers,” said the IMA.

The group of young doctors is not a legal representative body like the IMA and thus does not have much say in how a solution will be found.



The Treasury said Thursday that it did not see any reason to appoint an outside mediator to bring the sides together.

Melcer also said that following statements by the state and the Clalit Health Services in the preliminary hearing, individual residents who wished to resign from their posts in state hospitals “without any stipulations in relation to working conditions or their improvement, including salary” could do so.

In its response, filed by attorney Doron Yefet of the Tel Aviv District Attorney’s Office, the state emphasized that the collective agreement was an “established fact.”

The six petitioners, all of whom are medical residents and who include Dr. Yona Weissbuch, head of the Mirsham residents’ advocacy group, immediately slammed the state’s response, saying it “proves the petitioners are left with no alternative but to resign. The response also proves why the stoppage of negotiations was not connected with the petition but with the inflexibility of [Treasury wage chief Ilan] Levin and his officials,” said the petitioners.

The state’s response came after the petitioners announced to the High Court on Wednesday that they were willing to reopen talks with the Finance Ministry, but without preconditions.

The six residents had specified a list of subjects they wish to discuss, which includes employment terms, a reduction in the length of shifts and financial issues.

“There is no lack of trust between the IMA and employers,” the state added, likely a pointed reference to the fact that the petitioners include leaders of Mirsham, which unofficially represents 800 residents and is independent of the IMA.

In an interview with Channel 2 news on Thursday, petitioner Dr. Aviv Shaul said he had lost all trust in Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz.

“I don’t believe a single word he says,” said Shaul.

“He uses this demagoguery when he sleeps at home under his blanket and I have to treat patients and see life and death every night.”

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