Mixed Reactions to Arbitrator’s Decision on Doctors Wage Hike

The decision of a government-appointed arbitrator to grant doctors a 60 percent wage increase spread retroactively over a two year period, drew mixed reactions today.

The Finance Ministry said the salary hike was within the 22 percent wage increase ceiling applicable to all public employes. But the ruling by arbitrator David Shoham was denounced by representatives of hospital-employed doctors. The Medical Association welcomed it, but with reservations. The decision, however, is binding on all parties.

The Treasury seemed to be the most satisfied. Officials noted that advances already paid to physicians more than covered the increases that will be paid retroactively beginning today and ending next spring. They said that no new money will have to be raised for the time being.

But trade union leaders disputed the claim that the salary awards were within the 22 percent limit. They said it violated the national wage ceiling agreement and that other groups of workers will now demand equal increases,

The doctors also won their demand for shorter hours. The arbitrator ordered a 45-hour work week and stipulated that half of the hospital staff doctors, particularly young residents, work only 42 hours, with generous overtime payments.

The decision to submit the issues to binding arbitration, once bitterly opposed by the Finance Ministry, ended a four-month strike by publicly employed doctors. Last spring, the doctors resorted to a hunger strike which paralyzed the country’s medical services and brought matters to a head.

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