Union leads doctors’ class action.


You have probably already heard the news that ASMOF is leading class actions in Victoria to recover the many millions of unpaid wages owed to doctors in training in that State, with ASMOF Victoria President, Dr Roderick McRae stating that junior doctors were ‘crying out for help’.

Since the announcement last week, our South Australian counterpart the SA Salaried Medical Officers Association (SASMOA) has also revealed that they are in discussions with lawyers handling class actions in NSW and VIC.

It is clear that the status quo has got to change.

ASMOF NSW has been encouraging doctors in training who have been underpaid to come forward for the past year and we have now spoken with over 80 former or current doctors in training.

In Victoria ASMOF needs to take action against each health service because their medical officers are employed under separate enterprise agreements. In NSW medical officers are all employed by NSW Health under the one Award.

Our Strategy will be based on the advice of our legal team at Hall & Payne as to the best way we can achieve our goal to stop the damaging culture of overwork and unpaid overtime through improvements to Medical Officers Award conditions, payroll systems, and the oppressive culture of our hospitals. Our action will confront NSW Health head on with the value of our members work and ensure that doctors have legally enforceable protections.

While our asks seem simple, health services across Australia have failed to pay doctors the hours they work or provide a safe working environment for far too long. In an Opinion Piece in the Guardian, Dr Ranjana Srivastava has written concisely about the issue which has plagued medicine for decades:

'The most surprising thing about the class action is that it has taken so long for the doctors to speak up. Perhaps, they finally got tired of waiting for the establishment to defend them, perhaps because senior doctors often feel aggrieved by the system, too. Australia has an enviable healthcare system but to those who uphold it, it feels as if the priorities are sometimes mistaken.'

Changes to doctors working conditions that can be legally enforced will be crucial to ensure that this culture of exploitation is stopped.

SASMOA’s Chief Industrial Officer Bernadette Mulholland told InDaily that they will be seeking a new clause in SA’s enterprise agreement that states ‘that junior doctors get paid for the hours they work’.

‘This may seem silly to some but in an environment where you regularly do not get paid for the hours worked it is necessary to spell it out to the hospital administrators’, Mulholland said.

ASMOF NSW will be considering similar provisions when negotiating the Medical Officers Award this year.

If you think you might have been underpaid working as a doctor in training in NSW within the past 6 years, we encourage you to contact us using the form below.