Monday, March 6, 2017

"Meaningful Job Action"? The OMA Should Let It Go

Doctors seem frozen over what job action might look like.

Was it just this past summer when Ontario's doctors were in the midst of a Civil War? Forced to whittle away precious time on social media, tweeting, counter-tweeting, and name-calling over the tentative deal with the province? Because some days, it feels like it happened years ago.

But as they say, the past is prologue. It's a brand new year, and with its elections wrapping up literally hours after this post is published, a brand new OMA is getting set for renewed negotiations with the province, this time with binding arbitration (apparently) on the table. For the first time in forever, there might finally be labor peace between Ontario and its doctors.

Nevertheless, the OMA hasn't been sitting on its laurels. In preparation for negotiations, they assembled a major working group around job action, to build on their online forum and member engagement. A casual glance at the OMA Twitter feed would seem to indicate some serious noggin-knockin' went on, a focused effort to come up with a comprehensive, at-the-ready plan of action should negotiations with the province break down again.

What can we glean from the OMA tweets? Well, the parameters are in place for doctors' job action, and they are underwhelming to say the least:

Let's see...job action can't get anyone in trouble with the College, can't affect quality or safety, can't affect trainees, can't interfere with emergency care, can't be unfair to one group of doctors over others, and must have active support and participation from the membership. I'm a little unclear on two things:

1) What conceivable actions - satisfying the above criteria - could possibly be enough of a nuisance to get the public to force the government back to the table (which is the entire point of job action)? After the doctors rejected two offers in 2016?

2) Would that be support from the members that have been pilloried in the press for threatening and bullying fellow doctors, the members that ousted the OMA leadership, or the members that continue to threaten the OMA with legal action over the makeup of the negotiations team?

There's an argument to be made that the plan for job action is more of a "fixer-upper opportunity" than a sure-fire way to get results. Perhaps a rock-solid plan is just around the corner after a few more consultations, a few more planning sessions, and a few more...magic trolls?

With all due respect to the beleaguered OMA, the idea of effective job action is a dud. Full-on strikes failed miserably in the past, and the only thing milquetoast half-measures will do is irk a minority of patients and confuse many more. And if the irked patients in question are irked enough to consider calling the press? Every news outlet in the country will haul out the embarrassing archival footage of past strikes faster than you can say, 'Duke of Weselton'.

Ontario's doctors have almost ZERO solidarity these days, and buy-in on job action - even halfhearted job action - will be nowhere near enough to affect public opinion and pressure the government. The doctors attempting job action will look at best weak and ineffectual, at worst...much, much worse.

For the sake of everyone's sanity, the incoming OMA leadership needs to settle the worst of the tribal infighting. It needs to assemble the toughest negotiations team possible, and give them a firm mandate for a fresh round of talks with the province. And it needs to send the idea of job action where it the dustbin. Just let it go.

Awesomely awesome update: For the first time in my (admittedly brief) career as a blogger, I had someone call me out for my comments on both Twitter and YouTube! I always love a lively debate, and DAMN did this vlogger ever throw down the gauntlet (if you don't have time want to watch the video, I'd invite you to read my responses in the comments section).

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