Israel Labor Court Orders Doctors to Punch Time Clocks

Union urges protests at Clalit hospitals for docking paychecks.

On Monday, the Tel Aviv Labor Court ordered all doctors working in Clalit-owned hospitals to punch a time clock, as required by the collective agreement signed last summer.

The order was issued at the request of the Clalit health maintenance organization, because hundreds of doctors employed at the hospitals it owns have refused to punch a time clock since the beginning of February, when the new rule took effect.

time clock - Daniel Bar-On - 01022012
Daniel Bar-On

The ruling does not apply to government-owned hospitals because doctors there have agreed to punch a time clock as of this month. They plan to protest the agreement by submitting demands for overtime payments.

The judges said they are not imposing any sanctions on the doctors for now, but warned that they could take unspecified additional steps if their protest continues in its current format.

"We cannot accept a situation in which [hospital] physician committees are working openly, in an organized fashion, to violate the explicit instructions of a valid collective agreement," the judges wrote. "Such behavior undermines the collective agreement and does real harm to the representative organization itself," they said, referring to the Israel Medical Association.

But the judges said they didn't hold the medical association responsible for the physician committees' behavior.

"We are satisfied that the IMA is working to the best of its ability to get the collective agreement implemented by all the doctors," they wrote.

A new medical union called Arbel, which seeks to supplant the IMA, on Monday urged its members to hold protest meetings at all Clalit hospitals in response to the HMO's decision to deduct 20 percent from the February paychecks of doctors who refused to punch a clock.

The decision means hundreds of doctors would get a reduced paycheck, including 80 percent of those at Schneider, 70 percent of those at Beilinson and 60 percent of those at Meir and Hasharon.

Government-owned hospitals, in contrast, did not dock the paychecks of physicians who refused to punch a clock.

Arbel said Clalit's decision "crossed a red line" and was "an illegal and immoral move meant to crudely intimidate doctors who are doing their jobs faithfully."

Clalit said Monday that it will reconsider its decision on a case-by-case basis for doctors who say they were present at the hospitals where they work for the requisite number of hours, even if they didn't punch in and out.

Nevertheless, it said doctors who don't adhere to the agreement should take responsibility for their failure to do so.

"The collective agreement that was signed with the doctors' representative organization was the product of long months of negotiations, and all the parties must honor it to the letter, as Clalit is doing," the HMO said in a statement. "Data from recent weeks shows that the decisive majority of doctors are honoring the agreement in all its details. It's inconceivable that a small minority should violate this important agreement ... without taking responsibility for its actions."