time clock - Daniel Bar-On - 01022012
A time clock at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv. Photo by Daniel Bar-On
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Doctors are to begin using time clocks to sign in for work in hospitals and clinics on Wednesday, but hundreds have already declared they won't.

The move to time clocks was part of the deal signed following the strike in the health system this summer.

Some eight thousand physicians have already joined a cellular service facilitating the procedure, but a thousand others declared they would refuse to do so, and threaten to disrupt work if they are punished.

The deal ending the strike this summer promised doctors pay raises and determined that a full working week would be set at 41.5 hours. Still, doctors in Beilinson and Schneider medical centers voted on Tuesday against using the time clocks, and they are expected to be joined by doctors in other medical centers and hospitals such as Wolfson, Ichilov, Rambam and Meir.

Arbel, an organization representing some 3,000 doctors, which is firmly opposed to the time clock, said on Tuesday that there would be no disruptions at this stage, but warned that "if doctors who refuse to use the time clock will be personally punished, we will react strongly."

Arbel published a position paper this week claiming that the time clock would "put an end to the public health system as we know it. Apart from the Finance Ministry coffers, doctors and patients alike will suffer."

Arbel advocates the use of a "work clock" that would represent total work hours, in and outside the hospitals.

It is yet unclear how the Health Ministry will react to the opposition, and the conflict might, ultimately, call for a decision by a labor court. Dr. Hezi Levy, who heads the Health Ministry's medical administration, wrote this week that it would be impossible to pay the salaries of doctors who don't use the clocks, but Arbel officials insist they would consider that as holding back wages.

Last week the Regional Labor Court in Jerusalem was faced with a similar issue when dealing with a strike by lawyers of the National Insurance Institute that refused to use a time clock, and were docked pay. The court ruled that even a partial docking of pay due to refusal to punch a clock necessitates an individual hearing for each worker.