PETALING JAYA: There is no need for doctors in the public sector to form a union to fight for their rights when the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) is there to do so, Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) said.
Its chairman, Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj, said the MMA’s section concerning house officers, medical officers and specialists (Schomos), which has been around since the 1970s, could push for doctors’ rights and benefits through negotiations with the government.
“I think they (doctors) should use Schomos to negotiate with the government, and the government should listen to them,” he told FMT.
He was commenting on calls for a union to be established during a town hall session on the Health White Paper in Penang on Tuesday.
Jeyakumar also said unions usually took a “militant” and “antagonistic” approach in pushing for their demands, a strategy which healthcare workers could not take because of their “professional obligation to save lives”.
The MMA had in March reminded a group of doctors planning to go on strike in April of the Hippocratic Oath of “first do no harm” in urging them to call off the protest.
“Doctors may go on strike at some point, but that should be the exception, and not the (usual) way to solve things,” Jeyakumar said.
Hartal Doktor Kontrak argued that a union would have more power to demand or negotiate with the government through industrial action such as strikes.
It cited the recent strike in the UK carried out by junior doctors under the British Medical Association (BMA) – a union – to demand better pay and push for a better working environment.
The group, however, admitted that the government’s reluctance to allow such a union to be formed would see it remain a stillborn idea.
“The government will be reluctant to approve a union as it will give stronger bargaining power to the doctors, and they are worried this can politically backfire on them,” the group said.
It said it had failed to form a union for junior doctors in the past as there was “a lot of resistance from those in power”.
It also disagreed with Jeyakumar on Schomos playing such a role, saying the Hartal Doktor Kontrak movement would not have existed in the first place “if the other organisation had played its role well”.
“Why was Hartal formed? It is to fill in the huge gap seen in the fight for (the rights of both) contract and junior doctors,” it said.