Negotiations Over Eight-week Doctors Strike Set to Resume

State-owned hospitals to operate as usual throughout the country Thursday, announces Israel Medical Association.

The Israel Medical Association yesterday called off sanctions planned in hospitals today, as both doctors and the Finance Ministry resumed negotiations in a bid to end the doctors' eight-week strike.

The IMA announced at a Regional Labor Court hearing yesterday that state-owned hospitals would operate as usual throughout the country today. The association also canceled the overall strike planned for entire days in the coming weeks and said it would exercise restricted sanctions instead.

Doctors strike protest
Motti Milrod

The IMA's 17,000 doctors launched a strike more than two months ago, demanding a 50 percent pay raise per hour, improving their work terms and increasing doctors' positions.

The talks between the parties had been deadlocked until yesterday.

The agreement to resume the talks was reached after the Regional Labor Court in Tel Aviv yesterday rejected the state's request to issue back-to-work orders to the doctors.

The finance and health ministries had petitioned the court to order the IMA to put an immediate stop to the ongoing strike and to halt any planned obstructions in the future.

Court President Michael Spitzer said there was no way to issue back-to-work orders as the doctors' strike was restricted to sanctions.

He also instructed the parties to negotiate, among other things, doctors' positions, a clause the Finance Ministry had refused to discuss. The number of doctors' positions was last set in the 1977 wage agreement with the IMA.

Following the hearing, the doctors will strike only until 10 A.M. on Sunday. On Monday, outpatient clinics in certain hospitals will shut down (Sheba, Meir, Beilinson, Schneider Children's Medical Center, Hasharon, Hillel Yaffeh, Rambam, Bnei Zion, Carmel, Haemek, Poriya, Sieff and Nahariya ). Next Thursday, outclinics in other hospitals will be closed (Ichilov, Assaf Harofeh, Wolfson, Barzilai, Kaplan, Soroka, Yoseftal, Bikur Holim, Hadassah Ein Kerem, Hadassah Mt. Scopus and Shaare Zedek ). On June 12, doctors will strike only until 10 A.M., and later in the week outclinics will shut down in different hospitals each day.

"We're optimistic and hope the state has realized the doctors have a right to strike," the IMA said yesterday. "We are pleased the court understood the essence of the dispute and the need for both sides to enter negotiations willingly."

The state's representative said the treasury was willing to improve the doctors' terms if they agree to use a time clock. The IMA has refused to comment officially on this proposal so far, but has reportedly agreed to it in exchange for certain benefits.

The Finance Ministry said, "The state took the matter to court with the intention of reducing the harm that the doctors' sanctions caused the public. We expect the IMA to conduct the talks in a businesslike manner, renounce the across-the-board pay raise and start talking about implementing a time clock."