Residents, Treasury agree Zamir, Mironi to mediate

Two legal figures suggested by Chief Justice Beinisch to mediate residents' dispute over wages, hours; some doctors continue making threats.

Doctors residents x-ray 311 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Doctors residents x-ray 311
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
The Medical residents and Finance Ministry agreed Sunday night that retired justice Yitzhak Zamir and Prof. Mordehai Mironi of the University of Haifa’s law faculty would mediate the dispute over residents' wages and hours.
The three-month-long broil of hundreds of medical residents and dozens of specialists at hospitals in the center of the country and Haifa reached a new stage earlier on Sunday, as the doctors agreed to return to the negotiating table and accept the High Court of Justice’s suggestion to appoint two mediators to facilitate a solution.
Health Ministry looks to get residents back to work
But it was not certain whether some recalcitrant physicians would return to work.
At the beginning of Sunday’s hearing, a representative of the state said the Finance Ministry was willing to hold talks with residents within the framework of the collective work agreement signed last summer, but would not re-open negotiations on the agreement itself.
Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch agreed talks could go ahead without opening the agreement.
During the hearing, Beinisch said the court wanted to find a mediator to be “objective and acceptable to all sides” and that several experts may end up being chosen.
She proposed Zamir and Mironi, and asked both sides to decide whether they would accept her proposal.
“We proposed [Zamir and Mironi] because they could help in a professional and dignified manner,” said Beinisch, before calling a court recess to allow residents to discuss and put forward names of mediators they would find acceptable.
However, it will not be easy to find a respected expert who is neutral on the matter, as someone who is too close to one side of the dispute would not be accepted by the other.
Earlier in Sunday’s hearing, Beinisch, speaking as head of the three-justice panel that also included Esther Hayut and Hanan Melcer, said she welcomed the residents’ decision to return to negotiations, but “this is only partial congratulations. Your decision is good, but you left many [doctors] who do not agree. We want you to represent a group and not part of a group.
“If you continue negotiations, you must remember that you also mentioned specialists, but we deal only with residents... We don’t want everyone to represent only a small group of people. We will not have another hearing for every group,” said Beinisch, who noted that even the petitioners were not an official representative of the doctors. That is the Israel Medical Association.
Shortly before residents retired to discuss potential mediators, petitioner and resident Dr. Avi Gadot said in an address to the court that while the current crisis was considered a struggle waged by residents, many more doctors supported the cause.
“Many doctors are angry, humiliated and deeply embittered,” Gadot said. “I’m 39 years old, I have served in the army and worked in medicine for many years, I am a young doctor but a senior person.”
Gadot said residents had put their trust in the court to help them, but lacked faith in the Finance Ministry.
“We came [here] out of respect for the court,” he said.
In response, Beinisch said that though the court understood the seriousness of the situation, “there is a legal framework and rules. Therefore we think it is necessary to strengthen trust and conduct negotiations.”
Meanwhile, at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who is formally health minister, praised the physicians but called on all those who resigned to go back to work.
“I understand your desire to improve your conditions of employment, but none of us, nobody in the state is above the law, and we must all honor court decisions – because otherwise there would be anarchy here,” he said.
Netanyahu, who has been widely criticized by opposition MKs for his lack of intervention in the crisis, said that “no responsible government can countenance a situation in which agreements that were just signed are reopened, and these are long-term agreements that affect the entire economy.
“I will continue to accompany the dialogue process and I will make certain that the process will be substantive. Naturally, in this process, not all of your demands will be met, but we will be attentive to improving your working conditions in the framework of the agreement that has been signed” by the IMA and the Treasury in August, the prime minister said.
Before the cabinet meeting, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz was sharply critical of the residents, saying “this was no longer merely a medical crisis, but rather a struggle over the character of the state. Are we a state of law and order where agreements that are legally signed are honored, and court decisions are implemented? Or are we an anarchic state where everyone acts according to their whims?” He called on the medical residents to honor the court decisions and the signed salary agreement. As for their remaining demands, he said: “We are willing to discuss this with them, be attentive, move in their direction and see what we can improve.”
The spokesman of the residents charged that Steinitz has in recent days made wild attacks on the doctors.
“This occurred exactly when the doctors have shown responsibility and are willing to return to the negotiating table. There are public officials who forget that they were chosen to serve the public and not to abuse them,” said the spokesman.
“When the time comes, their brutal and irresponsible handling will lead to them being removed. Steinitz’s tough talk proves again and again that he is a minister who lacks a basic understanding of the sensitivity of his position. If this is the way the Treasury operates, we will insist on our right to resign.”
Kadima, meanwhile, will present a bill of non-confidence in the government for “destroying public health.” MK Rachel Adatto said on Sunday the health system has for the last nine months been “in the throes of the worst crisis the system has ever known.
The prime minister, who is health minister, has totally ignored the right of citizens to health, while patients die as a direct result of the crisis.”
Herb Keinon and Joanna Parasczuk contributed to this report.