Medical resident representatives - Emil Salman - October 2011
Medical resident representatives at a hearing at the High Court this week. Photo by Emil Salman
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At least some residents are willing to resume negotiations with the Finance Ministry, six of them told Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer yesterday.

The six had petitioned the High Court of Justice after the National Labor Court revoked their resignations. But on Tuesday, Melcer asked them whether they would agree to resume talks with the treasury in an effort to resolve their differences over the new collective wage agreement signed with the Israel Medical Association this summer, and gave them a day to answer.

The residents, who walked out of talks with the treasury at the beginning of the week, told the court they wanted to hold daily negotiating sessions with treasury officials, and that the talks should be limited to no more than two weeks. They also asked that in the meantime, the High Court continue hearing their petition against the restraining order that National Labor Court President Nili Arad issued two weeks ago, which barred them from resigning.

But the six stressed that they couldn't speak on behalf of the other residents who resigned, as they do not represent these residents in any organized fashion.

The petitioners agreed to negotiate without preconditions on the matters included in Melcer's decision on Tuesday. Inter alia, this means the talks will cover only issues that apply to residents, and not demands relating to specialists that the residents had also raised.

The state is supposed to tell the High Court today whether it is willing to talk with the residents without preconditions, as Melcer recommended. In the past, the state has set two conditions for such talks: It will not reopen the collective wage agreement signed at the end of August, and it will not increase wages any further unless the residents agree to spend additional hours working in the public health system.

If the state tells the court it is unwilling to begin talks without preconditions, then Melcer will set a date for the High Court to hear the residents' petition.

Yesterday morning, 150 residents at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa held a spontaneous demonstration in which they left the hospital to protest the labor court's refusal to let them resign. The residents briefly blocked the main junction leading to the hospital and then returned to their wards.

Also yesterday, representatives of Israeli students who completed their medical studies overseas met with Health Ministry officials to discuss easing the rules for licensing them as doctors. About 600 Israeli students complete their medical studies in Israel every year, while another 500 return after completing their studies abroad.

As opposed to most Western countries, Israel does not have a single, unified set of licensing tests for new doctors. Instead, it has separate tests for those who studied in Israel and those who studied overseas. About 80 percent of those who studied in Israel pass their tests, but only about 30 percent of those who studied overseas pass their different set of tests.

The students asked the ministry to unify the testing procedure and ease the bureaucracy involved.