Doctors call off industrial action

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 May, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 May, 1998, 12:00am

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Public doctors have halted industrial action to give hospital chiefs time to reconsider pay cuts for new recruits.


The about-turn came less than two weeks after the doctors began boycotting administrative work at public hospitals, and after a meeting yesterday with Secretary for Health and Welfare Katherine Fok Lo Shiu-ching.


The decision was made at an emergency council meeting of the Public Doctors' Association last night.


Though dissatisfied with results achieved, association president Dr Poon Tak-lun said the group had resolved to temporarily shelve the action.


'We have resolved that we are going to shelve the industrial action temporarily . . . even though we are not satisfied with our achievements so far,' said association president Dr Poon Tak-lun.


The Hospital Authority had enlisted a consultancy firm to look at the remuneration package for new recruits, he said.


Association vice-president Dr Lai Kang-yiu said the argument that the new recruits' pay cut was bringing their salary in line with civil servants' was a sham.


After analysing pay scale figures, he found new recruits would earn up to 13 per cent less in fringe benefits than civil service counterparts.


'The public still has the impression we are overpaid. Civil servants work 44 hours, we work 60 to 80 hours a week,' Dr Lai said.


Dr Yip said the 'temporary suspension' of the boycott would be reconsidered when the consultants' review was completed.


Another contributing factor to the doctors' decision to suspend industrial action was a guarantee from Mrs Fok that the association's views would be sought for the on-going review of health-care financing.


'Our main aim was to express our discontent with the Government for cutting health-care financing,' Dr Yip said. 'What we achieved is that we aroused public concern on these health-care issues.


'We also got a promise in future that during the [financing] review, our association will also be heard.' The Hospital Authority said it was pleased the doctors had shelved their industrial action.


'The Hospital Authority board understood the concerns and work pressures of staff,' it said.