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ACT Government Should Get Back to Collective Bargaining in Public HospitalsFri, 12 Jun 1998

"Competition theory is inappropriate for the resolution of the ACT health dispute between Visiting Medical Officers (VMOs) and the ACT Government", spokesman for the Australian Society of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Mr Stephen Milgate said in Sydney today.

"Competition theory being now applied in the ACT public hospitals dispute expects each individual doctor to separately negotiate an individual contract with the public hospital. The outcome of this commercial in-confidence contract is not made public. The public will never know how much it is paying for VMO services to the public hospital system".

"Under collective bargaining the agreement to pay doctors is made public and hence, is clearly transparent and in the public interest. This has now been replaced by secret contracting".

Mr Milgate said, "Any criticism of doctors over contracts in the current dispute should keep in mind that contestability over contracts is part of the competition theory process."

"It's all about winners and losers. Under this new competition system doctors are entitled to reject commercial offers if they believe these offers are not acceptable. Conflict is encouraged and co-operation and arbitration discouraged".

"Under competition theory both parties are expected to contest, not co-operate. The problem is whilst this contestability is taking place the health system is without highly qualified Orthopaedic Surgeons."

"I am unable, even if invited, to represent our members in any negotiation process because collective bargaining is illegal under competition law unless a special exemption has been granted by the regulator", Mr Milgate said.

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