This morning representatives of the medical residents involved in a labor dispute with the state are due to respond to a proposal from the Supreme Court, which favors resuming negotiations with the Finance Ministry. If they accept the proposal doctors will return to work and the state will withdraw its demand to charge them with contempt of court. Concurrently, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman appointed Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef special adviser on the issue, in a move that expresses a lack of confidence in Health Minister Director General Ronni Gamzu.
The residents' key demand is to shorten the duration of the collective bargaining agreement signed in August, from nine years to three. But last week Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch said the talks should address only the residents' resignations because "there is a signed agreement and it is binding."
This position is correct from the legal perspective and responsible from the public one. If the residents do not accept the agreement signed by representatives of the physicians, it will topple the entire framework of labor relations. If an agreement signed by a representative organization is not final, how can any labor dispute be ended?
The Israel Medical Association, headed by Leonid Eidelman, fought hard for six months to reach an agreement that would be good for all Israeli physicians. The treasury would not have agreed to new job slots, the creation of new positions and an average wage hike of 47 percent, among other benefits, had the agreement not been long-term. Before the agreement, the average monthly wage of a resident in central Israel who does six on-call shifts a month was NIS 17,000; after the agreement that will rise (gradually ) to NIS 21,000. Before the agreement the average monthly salary for a resident outside of the central region was NIS 17,000; after the agreement it will rise to NIS 25,000. In giving priority to the geographical periphery and to understaffed specialties the new agreement corrected past injustices and increased social justice.
Therefore the contract should not be reopened, but perhaps there are changes the parties can agree on nevertheless, such as increasing overtime pay, providing for an additional rest day and supplying transportation.
It is hoped that the residents will respond in the affirmative to the court today and resume negotiations with the treasury, mediated by Mor-Yosef.
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