Together Medical Officers Portal

Government takes the knife to doctors

Posted by Alex Scott on June 7, 2012

Queensland Health called your negotiating team to a meeting yesterday to receive an offer for a replacement agreement for MOCA2. Our predicted worst-case scenario in terms of an offer was not realised - what was put to us today was dramatically worse.

Now that MOCA 2 has passed its expiry date, Public Service Commission (PSC) and Queensland Health decided to send their 'big guns' to the meeting – Paul Casey of PSC who has attended not one of the negotiations in the past 6 months and Lyn Rowlands (Deputy D-G HR) who has attended a few.  The D-G and Minister are still not interested in talking to us.

QH and PSC adopted an approach of highlighting that in this new era of austerity doctors should feel comforted that they are considered front line staff and, unlike many other public servants, are not likely to lose their jobs.  To be honest, after receiving QH’s offer we wonder why this message was delivered at all. Doctors are more likely to be racing to exit the Queensland public sector - although some may be persuaded to join the ranks of valued clinicians working part time in public service as VMOs.

Further QH and the PSC representatives said there is a changed environment and QH needs a new way of operating. That new way involves almost unfettered managerial prerogative.  Management prerogative (effectively a right to do whatever they choose) is a theme throughout by your employer without factoring in any consideration of workload, work/life balance, fatigue, and the capacity to deliver best-services to your patients.

QH wants only three things – flexibility, simplification and rationalisation of arrangements, and cashable savings.

The union's claims were about cost measures not savings measures and QH wants to give us another chance to offer them some savings to help government regain their AAA rating or prevent their rating being further downgraded.  Apparently our list of savings such as clinical measures to increase activity, improve flow, reduce overtime, increase private practice earnings to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars don't rate at all. It became clear that QH is looking for more valuable savings – ones revealed as a series of completely new claims put to us yesterday - in clear breach of good faith bargaining.

So what are these new claims and what is QH's offer?

See this link to the full text of the offer. Below also is our summary/comments on major elements of the offer including QH’s new claims not discussed at all during negotiations:

Operative date I July (new claim) - a month after expiry meaning  a delayed pay rise due to QH delays in negotiations with more expected

Wage rise new policy – 2.5% per annum AND contingent upon agreement to ALL productivity, efficiencies and savings in the offer (new claim) - as opposed to 3% as per correspondence from QH’s Dep D-G, Lyn Rowlands only last week

Medical Managers and Clinical Managers Allowances to become a stand alone allowance (new claim) - not part of base pay and not all-purpose allowance, no annual increase as now, not superannuable - a big pay cut for managers including Med Supers and a real incentive to retire immediately

Audit application of MMA and CMA (new claim)

One year pause in incremental salary rise for ALL medical staff to save $60M (new claim) - no increase in seniority level and associated pay level  

Seniority levels frozen for new appointees for life of agreement (new claim) - bad for RMOs big incentive for new specialists to become VMOs

Overtime standardisation (new claim) - unsure of full import but loss of double time for SMOs for all time after midnight + all overtime on ADOs at ordinary rates

RMO on-call pay (new claim) - likely substantial pay cut

Commitment to QH strategic initiatives - a blank cheque to QH to make any changes – good or bad?

Removal of Regional Development Incentive Scheme to fund junior doctor training

A review of private practice in consultation with unions – not negotiated and not in agreement

Removal of various clauses from MOCA eg.:

  • Dispute escalation to MOCA consultation group
  • Collective industrial relations - despite host of examples of bad outcomes when collective negotiation not adhered to
  • Replacement of existing staff and reporting staffing levels - assessment of the number of doctors required at the whim of management and a recipe for reducing doctor numbers despite safety and sustainability concerns. A way of getting round the commitment to not cutting frontline staff
  • Job security - specific RMO job security to  go
  • SMOs and specialists extended hours at management’s discretion without any process and NO additional payment - already we hear of real  plans of PHOs being replaced by SMOs for convenience and efficiency  -> substantial loss of training and experience for RMOs 
  • SMO night shifts – delete clauses limiting managerial prerogative management will decide where SMOs should work night shifts, and may decide to replace RMOs with SMOs if that reduces call-ins. No extra payment offered for SMOs on night shifts. If SMO regularly called in for 3 hours it is probably cheaper to order an SMO to do the night shift at much less than double time

 Other changes to MOCA:

  • Removal of objective to consult with stakeholders 
  • Employees only to lodge grievances about disputes on interpretation application and operation of agreement 
  • Increment only if after successful PAD but no requirement for PAD taking place 
  • Fatigue wording modified to allow for arbitrary decision making on fatigue matters 
  • No extra claims - despite QH committing to resolving various longstanding matters in MOCA3 negotiations and not doing so, then agreeing to refer them to QIRC, but now shutting down that option 
  • Ordinary hours for RMOs 72/fortnight with banked hours, for SMOs 80 /fortnight

Make no mistake: this will be a radical erosion of your conditions - not to mention that your reasonable claims such as for sustainable staffing, PDA for all doctors and maintenance of PDA levels, Option A in base pay, payment for all forms of work on-call, recognition of meritorious service have been resoundingly rebuffed.

Our highly restrained response to QH's offer was that they had wasted 6 months of their clinician negotiators’ time; we were not interested in commencing a new round of bargaining on new claims with new people who were not briefed on basic aspects of the negotiations to date; and their offer is nowhere near what we could recommend to members.

Your colleagues on the negotiation team have been extraordinary advocates on your behalf but the forces against us all are immense. If a massive erosion of pay and conditions is to be prevented, we need you and every other doctor to get involved now.

Right now, we absolutely need you to:


Give serious and immediate consideration to what you and your colleagues, as a united group at your workplace, are willing to do to pressure the government to make a fair and reasonable offer.

Email the negotiation team ASAP with your suggestions or to seek suggestions . NOTE: In the coming week we will be sampling member’s views at a few workplace meetings. If you receive a notice of meeting come and bring your colleagues.


Click on this link now to send a petition to the Director-General and Minister for Health to intervene.

If you have any problems accessing the publicly accessible petition site or having your signature recorded, click here to sign.

Lastly, and most importantly:

Send this message to all of your colleagues and encourage them to join their union today and follow all of the other recommendations above.

We need every doctor to be a member of their union, and every single one calling for a fair deal for doctors. There will not be another chance!